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I find Shahla Dorafshan to be an unusually gifted and committed painter, with a rare grasp of nuance in her work with face and figure. I have been curating art shows in San Diego since 2001, and have been the curator of the Martha Pace Swift Gallery in San Diego since its inception in 2008. I have known Shahla since that time, and have had the pleasure of hanging her work in my gallery on several occasions, including a full solo exhibition (Painting the Persian Heart May-August 2011). Shahla’s work captures the imagination of the viewer, and she has a growing list of collectors among my attendees.
Shahla’s paintings are expressive and lively, and gallery patrons often find themselves attracted to the saturated colors, and the confident immediacy of her brushstrokes. But the depth of her paintings, (maturely handled themes of love, loss, aging, mortality, and maintaining hope), are what make the images of lasting interest. As a cultured, mature, multi-lingual artist, Shahla’s reflections on her life experience being many decades exiled from her native Iran, come across in a personal, not a political context. She does not make political paintings, but her work quietly illuminates the human condition, the status of women and the human costs of war. Nothing is overt or cartoonish, and she avoids both cliché and maudlin sentimentality. You can find a more extensive review of Shahla’s solo show here: http://swiftsd.blogspot.com/2011/05/shahla-dorafshan-show-delivers-artists.html I have had the pleasure of working with dozens of artists in the San Diego community, and I can say Shahla stands out from both a curatorial and business perspective. Shahla has a generous nature, and is able to deal honestly and directly with others in the professionally and socially demanding world of the arts. Her professionalism is demonstrated through reliability, and by how easy she is to work with. Shahla is always on time, and ready to do the necessary work of self-promotion that makes a curator’s job easier. Her maturity shows up in her ability to both fill a gallery with paintings and an opening with collectors. From my first studio visit with Shahla in 2008, I have found her receptive to feedback and criticism, and willing to take influence, without being moved from the authentic expression of her aesthetic. Having looked across the historic range of her work, including an extensive back catalog, I see a continual development, both in terms of absolute skill, but also comfort in her own skin as an artist. She is humble but not unsure of her abilities, and is passionate about the work of painting. She continues to re-examine her own work with an open mind and move forward by trying new and fresh ideas, without becoming an eclectic or self-indulgent painter. Her maturity in the medium shows up in her ability to explore within her idiom.
Shahla is neither afraid of taking risks, nor shy to take initiative in her artistic path. Wes Chester, MA, CAGS, Director Expressive Arts Institute San Diego Curator Martha Pace Swift Gallery 2820 Roosevelt Rd, Suite 204 San Diego, CA 92106
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