30 AUG – 15 SEP.2018


A solo exhibition by Negin Dastgheib

Soften is a solo exhibition by painter, Negin Dastgheib which explores ideas of aesthetic beauty alongside place and space. Aotearoa born, but with a strong connection to her Iranian heritage, Dastgheib’s body of work tells of places she has wondered, spent time, and felt - home. These works are of flora within Dastgheibs purlieu, painted from her previous years in Auckland and from her current locale; a studio in Lyttleton (a small coastal town not far from Christchurch).

Arriving with her work at an apt time, Dastgheib’s exhibition reminds us that these gusty days are coming to an end. Spring is afoot and soon we will be able, once again, to spend more time outdoors. This is an integral component to Dastgheib’s practice as she nurtures a somewhat insatiable passion for our natural world. Dastgheib feeds this passion, as well as her art practice, simultaneously, with walks in solitude, camera in hand. These walks have taken place in both Te Ika a Maui (the North Island) and Te Waipounamu (the South), capturing Dastgheib’s attention due to their vast differences. Born in Christchurch, Dastgheib found herself particularly aware of the lush and verdant nature of the north, which she visits to see family. This contrast inspired her to venture further in both locales where she would head out to notice, pause, spend time with and appreciate our environment.

Framing the plant(s) through her lens, Dastgheib discerningly shoots the images from which she paints. These images are often heavily cropped versions of a plant which appeal due to their unique form. Dastgheib then paints from the digital image, without a hard copy, before discarding the image to focus solely on the form of the work (rather than details or identifiers of the species). Simultaneously, Dastgheib selects her palette for the work by applying one colour before deciding on the next. This often includes a bold colour for under the work, followed by a complimentary colour atop that. With her loose, somewhat-thin painterly style, Dastgheib leaves small slits of underpainting bordering the plants extremities.

Through revealing her process to us, Dastgheib shares her goal which is to create works of pure aesthetic pleasure. Utilising the organic structure of our natural world as a blueprint for perfect form (as countless artists have done before), Dastgheib is freed to play. And once we know this, we can understand that play is central to her practice and in fact, comes first – her walks are her play. Post photographing, the form is a known factor, leaving Dastgheib to explore colour relationships alongside paint viscosity and finish.

In terms of influence, Dastgheib is heavily inspired by the Les Nabis artists, a group which formed at the end of the nineteenth century in France. With palettes reminiscent of Cezanne and Gaugin, the Le Nabis used a bold palette of unmediated colour applied in thick lines, alla prima. Influenced by Japanese prints and the Art Nouveau movement, their works were relatively flat and stylised. In addition, to this group, Dastgheib draws inspiration from the likes of Milton Avery (American), Peter Doig (Scottish) and Shaun Ellison (South African).

Painting is a cathartic exercise for Dastgheib where she works until she feels like she is “…at home”. Like her method of making, Dastgheib names her works in a playful, responsive way; Cheesecake as it reminds her of the indulgent pudding, and Strangers as the figurative nature of the plant felt like a group of friends, known to each other but strangers to Dastgheib. Dastgheib tells me of the personalities of her works, which she gets to know as she spends time making them, building a relationship with Sweet kawakawa, Orange Frowns and Ladies.

Based in Christchurch, Dastgheib holds a BFA from Massey University and has exhibited throughout New Zealand and the United States. Dastgheib is currently undertaking her master’s in arts therapy through Whitecliffe College of Art and Design in Auckland.

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