Insider of May: Golnaz Khadivi Zand

The Persian paintress with a message for our times

“After my coaching session with David, I didn’t touch a painting brush for two months,” recalls Golnaz Khadivi Zand (1974), one of the talented artist members of IBEX Insiders selected for a one-on-one online session with David Willson, the IBEX Collection partner with a knack for setting artists on a new track of creating art from a much deeper place.

“David got me thinking. About my past in Iran and my daughter’s future here in Canada,” the affable painter explains. Her technical skill already honed to perfection, Golnaz decided to turn her attention and energy to growing her eloquence as an artist and find her big message  inside that needed telling.

From Iran to Hogtown

Golnaz hails from Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city, where she grew up in a liberal family in a society that placed many constraints on women, especially after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when she was still a little girl.

Fast forward to Toronto, her new home since 2011. The covid-19 lockdown had stopped her budding art school in its tracks, and the forbidding Canadian winter made her stay home with tea and poetry. Then came the pivotal online session with David.

Freedom to Love One’s Legacy

“How about exploring your perspectives on your new land and your homeland? There’s bound to be a treasure cove to be found there,” David had suggested.

Since that December afternoon, Golnaz’ thoughts circled around her rich Persian legacy and her love for the mystical poet and freethinker Rumi, instilled by her psychologist father.

Iran’s traditions with their restrictions placed on women came to the fore, in contrast with the greater freedoms in her new hometown on the shore of Lake Ontario. Her own cultural adaption process was confounded by her teenage daughter’s journey into a life she’d never known herself.

The Flowing River Remains

A few months later, a symbolic portrait of her daughter was drying in her studio: a mysterious young woman holding a canvas frame in her hands, over a richly embroidered Persian blanket draped over her lap. One side of her face and body covered in dark fabric, the other side showing a beautiful face, wavy hair and a bare arm. In the blue-hued scene, the colors within the frame seem one shade paler.

“This painting speaks of my old me, the new me, and the newer beyond-me, my daughter, as well as the me-before-me: my conservative loving mother, my liberal father, and my worldly grandfather who studied in pre-war Paris.

“My personal and my family’s journeys don’t form a straight line from tradition to emancipation. The strands of convention and inquiry have always been intertwined in my family, and I’m confident that that will continue to be the case,” says Golnaz, smiling at her daughter, who winks back.

Path Unfolding like a Carpet

The painting is the first of a long-term project of what is likely to become seven paintings. The study sketch for the second painting shows another woman, still holding a frame, but with a lone yet promising wing growing out of her back. A black bird kindly tries to help lift up the oversized frame.

It makes one wonder what the third, fourth and next paintings will speak of. One thing seems certain: this lady is not just changing her art, her art is likely to transform her in turn on a journey into new lands.

As her favorite poet and guide in life and art, Rumi, has famously observed: “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.”

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