Saghar Daeiri

Beautiful, Spacious, Assured

Desperate Struggle for Uniqueness
Helia Darabi

Mass media is integrated into the context of late modernity everyday life, a zone of imposed ideology and taste-making, bringing on a false sense of awareness and freedom using the advertising means. This is the issue referred to in Saghar Daeeri’s recent painting series, Beautiful, Spacious, and Assured, which deals with fashion as a major aspect of this taste-making system, in one of its most exaggerated manifestations.
As Pierre Bourdieu maintains, fashion and gesture communicate much about the individual's character and social class, bestowing the body a major part in determining notions of success, wealth and fortune. In his observations, Bourdieu valued the individuals as actors in social scene, identifying the adaptation of objective possibilities into individual subjectivities as "Habitus". Habitus is a means to initiate individuals' social game which is represented through various aspects of human interaction with the world, including clothing.
Daeeri, for whom the main actors of paintings are present-day young women of the capital, depicts this social game, focusing on the significant role of television media in its development. Her women protagonists illustrate a frustrating repetitiveness, which is in sharp contrast with their extravagant fashion and style. Each of them believes in the freedom and creativity of her choice of dress and make-up; however, their striking sameness, as shown in the paintings, reveal a piteous monotony despite desperate struggle for uniqueness. Regardless of their identical appearance, these women may not be of the same social or economic class, but they all follow the same social structure with particular rules and policies, one significantly mediated by television media.
The role of television broadcasting in shaping identities in contemporary Iran has complex and paradoxical aspects. The emergence of multiple overseas satellite channels and their competition with official broadcasting has been of considerable significance especially in recent years. Daeeri’s paintings especially refer to “Farsi One”, a Dubai-based satellite channel, which enjoyed a sudden, widespread popularity all over Iran. Wide-ranging identification with characters of the serial movies, especially among women, expands the influence of the stories throughout the everyday life, manifesting in imitating the fashion and lifestyle, even calling friends and families with the characters’ names. In this same manner, the advertised goods communicate common codes about wealth, stylishness, class and power, contributing to the procedure of valuing people based on their possessions. It seems that, although the advertisement strategies have now gone farther than patriarchal principles and values, offering woman more active, adventurous products, the actual “freedom of choice” has hardly improved.
This impact and its role in developing the illusion of freedom constitutes the main grounds of Daeeri’s observation. The paintings are based on flat, sequential compositions, conforming to the structure of the televised image, and showing considerable difference comparing to the previous series, Passages, obviously grounded on depth and perspective. The horizontal lines refer to the noises and interferences. Motifs like extra-long artificial nails, details of luxurious cars along with extravagant makeups and violent acts of makeup artists dominant the paintings. The grotesque representation of the women takes them far away from serving a gender gaze. Any potential male character is replaced with phallic, pointed elements. The victorious face of the Korean woman whose kitsch domestic serial movies have received such an unexpected welcome thanks to the official limitations in Iran, adds another critical level to the piece.
The exaggerated statement of the artist seems explicable when facing the actual cases with all their embellished, stylized appearances. However, it seems that the shock of this encounter has hindered objective observation, as extreme contrasts and dark colors show levels of prejudice. Dealing with such social subject may have led to better results using more immediate media, like photography, instead of such painterly approach. Nevertheless, the paintings overall show a promising career, making a practical relation to the artist’s previous series.