Fault Lines

January 5 - 22 2024

Farniyaz Zaker

Press Release

O Gallery is pleased to present “Fault Lines”, an exhibition of recent works by Farniyaz Zaker (b. 1982 Tehran) on an exploration of barriers as mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion. Similar to much of Zaker’s previous collections, recurrent themes are walls and words, the built environment and language which are constructed and taken apart in order to create experiences and spaces of belonging and not-belonging.


“Scales” (2022/23) uses paint and plaster to evoke both the allure and the violence of exclusive spaces. There is beauty in the colouring of the scales of plaster, reminiscent of exquisitely illustrated maps. But there is also the suggestion of pain and injury in the staples that hold the plaster together, much like arbitrarily drawn borders. Whilst the plaster hints at the disintegration and transience of walls, the staples suggest their impenetrability.


Different kinds of barriers are alluded to in “Surface Depth” (2023) and “Surface Tension” (2023). Both works feature plants that are at once aesthetic and obstructive. In the latter work, there is the splendour of the natural world and the soothing, rhythmic movement of the plants. But there is also the surface tension of the water that keeps the plants afloat, allowing them to cover the surface like an impenetrable floating barrier. In “Surface Depth”, the use of ornament glass to cover drawings of floral patterns creates an illusion of water, movement and life. At the same time, there is a barrier-like quality to the work. The plants bear an uncanny resemblance to a fence perhaps even barbed wire, and the glass that covers them obscures as much as it reveals.


Other works in the show are primarily about the ability of the written and spoken word to create or overcome barriers of communication. In “Excommunicate" (2021/22), language is a vehicle of exclusion, concealment and obfuscation. "Visceral Words"(2021/22) goes beyond the limitations of the alphabet by replacing letters with feathers to speak of flying and freedom. But those messages are undermined by the static and clinical manner in which they are framed and exhibited. A similar juxtaposition of the possibilities and limitations of the written word are utilised in “Shekasteh” (2023). Taking its title from the short for Shekasteh Nastaliq (literally ‘broken’ Nastaliq), the work features a line of trapped and broken feathers that are suggestive of corrupted and illegible calligraphy. The same themes and contrast are also taken up in “Ephemeroptera” (2023). Taking its title from the Greek words ephemeros (lasting a day) and pteron (wings), the work shows winged insects that have failed to reach their destination. Trapped in cobweb and fossilized, they symbolise the quotidian and ephemeral, the exceptional and the lasting. The circle of light between them is both an unclaimed prize and a barrier.