A Perth-based artist with Iranian roots, Layli Rakhsha is one of PICA’s resident artists for the winter season. Working predominantly through print-making, her art projects centre around the concepts of home and memory.
In this Q&A, Layli Rakhsha discusses how and where her inspiration comes from, and how her residency at PICA has unfolded over the past few months.
Migration usually happens voluntarily or by force. But for me, coming to Australia was neither my choice nor by force; it was my father’s decision. For cultural and traditional reasons, I had no choice but to move to Australia with my family. I had no plan for my future and had no idea what I was going to do with my career when I arrived in Perth in late December 1999. Not realising where I was and how I could start my life left me with fear and uncertainty. I still explore these feelings in my practice.
I was 22 years old when I left Tehran to Perth and knew no English at all. Learning the new language was a huge task; it emotionally impacted on my personality and ideas, and socially bounded my communications at the beginning of life in Australia. I reflect and explore my feelings and the impact of migration and displacement that has left me with an ongoing search and investigation about what home means to me in my practice.
How did you start creating art; specifically, utilising your specialised medium of screen-printing which you continue to refine and develop?
I was 16 when I decided to be an artist, and I used to focus on drawings. Every day drawing and sketching was part of my daily routines.
I became interested in screen-printing when I was at ECU. My engagement with the process of screen-printing often reminds me of my experience of migration and the process of adjusting myself to the new place. Through engaging physically and involving myself expressively with the process of screen-printing, I feel silences and pauses that also remind me of the process of learning English, and settling in Australia.
I enjoy screen- printing because I think that I find a similarity between this technique and my everyday routines and household tasks. Whether I am in the kitchen cooking or cleaning, or my studio screen-printing, I feel stillness, silence, and being in a process in which I continuously explore my ideas and repetition. I sometimes feel that I am quiet in this process, and often find myself hiding what I want to say or express or show. Screen-printing allows me to discover the methodology of repetition that I experience every day.
You’re currently working on your new project here at PICA called Visible Cities. Can you tell us a little bit about the project?
Visible Cities is a new project that reflects my visual investigation about the relationship between public and private spaces and my everyday routines.
The idea of this project shaped when I was reading the book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino […] I am currently developing the same idea related to the city of Perth. I am also reading the book A Calvinian Architecture by Domenico De Clario, which has offered me a different perspective and approach to my idea. These two books Invisible Cities and A Calvinian Architecture are indirectly and poetically related together. They are a significant source of inspiration in my project Visible Cities.
I am also exposing my photographs of Perth on the silkscreens in the sunlight in Visible Cities project. I am also using my selected notes about Perth, my feelings and memories about Tehran and Perth that I collected during my PhD research in this project. The printed images of Perth accompanied with my notes reflect my feelings about Perth and visual explorations of the interaction between public and private spaces.
What would be the main things you would like audiences to take away from your work?
I have always been interested in what audiences can take away from my work. It is really hard to say, but I guess that it depends on what they want to take away. They might be interested in the concept of my work or the technique. I would like the audience to see that my works reflect my experience of living here and the impact of cultural differences. I would like them to see that my works echo the sense of limitations that I believe relates to migration and diaspora. I would also like them to feel that my works reflect the sense of doubt and hesitation, a silence and feelings of something unfinished, unsaid and unexpressed that unfolds into nostalgia.