b. 1964, Moskva
Beautiful white tears hang like drops in the large bright hall of the roasting house. White, in shimmering marble, they cling to an expansive white wall that is framed in the glossy slag stone and rusty iron formations of the old ironworks. On the podium rests a book with pleated leaves – all blank, waiting for answers. An invisible figure approaches. We see only the elegant veil that stiffens in the blink of an eye. For viewers with Western backgrounds, thoughts of the church are close at hand. An altar painting with Mary’s tears over her son’s suffering and death, a book of gospel, a bride about to be married. The rounded windows of the roasting house reinforce the image. Upon closer study and reflection, the views expand. Aidan’s art transcends borders between eras and cultures, it reaches out into the world and into the most personal. That which is always polarized – woman/ man, east/west, Christianity/Islam, soft/hard – can meet in reciprocity in her work. For the first time in Sweden, Aidan’s art migrates outside the traditional gallery. In Avesta Art, her work becomes a manifestation of revolutionary changes that she herself has experienced and of artistry that equivocally disrupts perspective, questions norms and unites the disparate. Aidan was born in 1964 in Moscow and grew up and completed her education in the Soviet Union. The communist machinery of power, dissociation from religions and artistic schooling in classical social realism art – this was her everyday world. Of significance also were her family’s roots in Islamic Azerbaijan and her parents’ relatively strong independence and freethinking. Aidan graduated from the Surikov Art Institute in 1987 – in the time of glasnost, on the way to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. She became a key figure in the development of new contemporary art and art arenas in the new Russia. Many count her as Russia’s first feminist artist. Human tears emerge in moments of both sadness and joy. In Sufism tales, mothers also cry rivers of tears, and here – in Islam’s Sufic branch that seeks to achieve enlightenment and awareness through God – the Holy Spirit is female. The tears in Avesta Art lead onward to women’s entire lives – and to the live-giving womb. In some of the drops, the female centre of pleasure emerges. The folds from the drape of the veil suggest the vaginal form – from a distance, the same sculpture materializes as the male phallus. Aidan has interpreted feminism and sexuality in many works, often with a connection to religion. She challenges patriarchal structures. The Eastern woman attired in a burqa or niqab wards off external observation of her body. The Western woman shows more of her bare body, becomes perhaps freer in her movement and at the same time more vulnerable to the eyes of others, more objectified. In paintings, video works, installations and stone sculptures, she embodies everything from women’s childbirth to women in harems, in Western pornography and in lesbian love concealed by burqas. Two female hands gently holding a minaret set an erotic tone. A marble sculpture of an exquisitely beautiful man lying down imparts both the bliss of lovemaking and the assurance of the crucified Christ in his resurrection. Aidan Salakhova has exhibited in Russia and elsewhere in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. She lived for several years in the United Arab Emirates. She now divides her time between Moscow and Carrara, Italy, where she – like the artists of antiquity – has found her favourite marble. Her first exhibition in Sweden was in 2016 at the Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm. Avesta Art is her second. The tears in Avesta Art awaken tremors reminiscent of Karin Boye’s poem about drops: Hard to be uncertain, afraid and divided, hard to feel the depths attract and call, yet sit fast and merely tremble – hard to want to stay and want to fall.