Malekeh Nayiny is a project-based artist who was born in Tehran, Iran and is now based in Paris. She has exhibited her work in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. The work featured is a series titled S.O.S. (Save Our Souls) that was first exhibited at the XVA Gallery in Dubai. Nayiny completed these portraits of Gandhi during a hard time of her life, while diving deeply into her subconscious mind during hypnotherapy sessions. Gandhi was her guide toward inner healing.
On first encounter with Malekeh’s works of art, one might notice that these water color portraits of Gandhi are quite different from Nayiny’s other works. Nayiny is not a primarily a painter; most of her other works use the mediums photography and collage. As well, there is a distinctly different feeling about these works; there is a certain sense of healing and serenity, as well as playfulness.
(To see more paintings by Malekeh Nayiny, visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery)
In each portrait, Gandhi wears his white robe. These portraits are colorful; some are quite realistic while others read more as caricatures of the subject. In many of the portraits, Gandhi’s gaze is fixed on the viewer; in others his eyes are closed gently. Nayiny visually repeats the image of a band-aid that is engraved with Gandhi’s likeness healing metaphorical wounds.
The images help one to think deeply about peace and surrender. “With each project I have a really different set of moods,” says Nayiny. “Sometimes I feel anxious, sometimes happy. I felt that with this project I was no longer lonely, I could be in contact with him, through these dreams and the awkward watercolors. Sometimes I’m lacking that [ability] … to be more inspired, to be able to create something from a deeper self.”
Gandhi became Nayiny’s inner guide–helping her to heal, and to recognize her higher self. “All of us we have our inner higher self, and I think that Gandhi was representing that higher self that I was hoping to have. It helped me through the crisis I was in.” She began to write down the story lines that were occurring during her dreams about Gandhi.
But why Gandhi? A watercolor portrait that her great-aunt had done of Gandhi had sparked the idea. She recalls thinking, “If she can make this portrait, why can’t I?”
What was important to Nayiny at that time was not the final end-product. She recalls:
“He was there and was waiting for me to do a portrait of him every week. As an artist, seldom do I have this experience….I can tell you the journey was more interesting to me than the actual product for galleries and art circle. It’s not my most popular art work, but its kind of a shame. Galleries have their own rules about what’s acceptable and what will become fashionable.”
Nayiny’s portrait series of Gandhi is important to us as readers of Tikkun not because of their value as works of art, but because of the power and hope they gave to the artist as she worked through a painful period of her life. We can look to these works as inspiration, knowing that they were made for the enjoyment and healing that they gave to the artist.