The Blacktown Arts Residency Program is a great opportunity for artists to explore their artistic practice, experiment with new techniques and materials, and escape from the realities of daily life that may typically prevent them from making art. While this residency isn’t funded, the space provided is hard to come by for artists. Two artists that were granted the 2018 Main Street Studio Residencies are Sima Alikhani and Neda Farrahi. Both are migrants, mothers, and painters.
We caught up with Sima and Neda in the closing weeks of their residencies. Here’s what we learned about these two artists and their experiences.
Sima Alikhani came to Australia as a skilled migrant, that skill being art teaching. In 2016 and 2017, she was a finalist in the Blacktown City Art Prize and, in 2016, her work Fly won the People’s Choice Award. The Blacktown City Art Prize encouraged her to return to her love of painting. The walls of her studio are lined with painted portraits of women, and on the floor lay several intricate and detailed miniature paintings.
Sima is a busy mum of young children and struggles to find the time to develop her practice. The Main Street residency has provided her with the opportunity to explore her interest in miniature painting which, she feels, celebrates “women as beautiful”. She wants to introduce the style of miniature painting to a younger generation of artists.
“I describe myself as a person with a calm attitude. I am at peace with myself because painting is my therapy. I am lucky that painting, as a way of communication, has been my passion in my life.”
The Main Street residency “looks like heaven” to Sima who is passionate about art but struggles to prioritise her art due to the pressures of everyday life coming first. The residency has given her the space to focus on her art; her studio has been a place where she can work by herself and “draw without any interruption”.
In her work, Sima examines problems she perceives in her community and culture, where she feels women can’t be free and don’t have opportunities to stand up for themselves and their rights. By drawing and painting, she wants to emphasise these issues in the community to encourage change and demonstrate the strength of women. Painting is a way for her to show her feelings and communicate with others, and this is demonstrated in her expressive and emotive paintings. She says that the residency opportunity gave her “hope” and a chance to stand up and believe in herself and her work.
Moving beyond the residency, Sima hopes to continue along this path of consistent art-making and engagement with the Blacktown community.
Neda Farrahi is also a migrant and mother. She initially studied Entrepreneurship Management at university and then a Masters while pursuing her passion for art. In Australia, she continued practising art and has participated in art exhibitions and competitions.
As she has young children, she took a break before applying for the Blacktown Arts Residency Program. She believes that it has been a great experience for both her professional and personal life. Neda says she is able to take the time out of her private life and go there to “work without any interruption, kids and chores”.
Her interest in painting people’s faces was sparked as a child. Her parents owned portrait paintings by a local Iranian artist. She says she loves using emojis when texting her friends, as they can portray her emotions and feelings through a medium mostly reliant on words. The same goes for painting and drawing faces, for her it is a way to express how she feels and what she wants to say.
Painting, for Neda, has also been also a way to cope with traumatic experiences such as the grief associated with the loss of a loved one. She lost her mother eleven years ago and her father a year and a half ago. She says art was therapeutic and a way for her to come out of her box and express her feelings. As Neda is not from Blacktown, her response to the area is quite unique and refreshing. Since working here the name of the suburb has influenced her colour palette. She went from typically using vivid colour in her work, to introducing more monochrome tones – black, grey and brown. The residency has provided her with the opportunity to experiment with new techniques such as scratching, new materials such as board instead of canvas, and the introduction of a monochromatic palette.
Neda hopes to continue experimenting with new techniques beyond the residency. She feels that the Blacktown community has been “wonderful” to her, and working here has uncovered a sense of pride and happiness to be a migrant.