Soheila Esfahani. The Vagireh Pattern, 2010. Laser-etched shipping pallet installation.

The Third Space

Soheila K. Esfahani, Negar Farajiani, Gita Hashemi, Elnaz Maassoumian, Naz Rahbar, Sona Safaei-Sooreh

June 22–September 15, 2013

Curated by Sanaz Mazinani



The Third Space is a group exhibition featuring a selection of works by six female artists of Iranian descent working in media as varied as drawing, photography, collage, video, and sculpture. Collectively, their works address issues about life in the diaspora. Their projects masterfully explore the anxieties and complexities of living in a globalized world and negotiating the hybrid identities that result from being multi-cultural.

The Third Space is a hybrid of experiences. It juxtaposes homeland with settled land, real with imaginary, and here with there. It is all the experiences of an emigrant; the past and the present dynamically recombined to create a symbolic abstract space in our mind. The phrase “third space” emerged from the writings of thinkers such as Homi K. Bhabha and Edward Said to suggest a rupture with dualism in relation to concepts of place, location, home, memory, identities, territory, and geography of diaspora communities. In this exhibition, The Third Space becomes a symbolic space for hope, where cultural transference is activated, an impermanent space where boundaries can be built and taken down, a psychological space where self-reflection can heal, and a place where individuals’ unique experiences can integrate to create a meaningful whole.

Through each of these works, The Third Space aims to create a vocabulary with which we, as fellow citizens with similarly varied backgrounds, can attempt to untangle our own complex individual existence and look toward a better and more hopeful future.

The Third Space is part of the Tirgan Festival, July 18-21, 2013.

– Sanaz Mazinani, Curator


Sanaz Mazinani

Sanaz Mazinani is an artist, curator, and educator based in San Francisco and Toronto. She holds her undergraduate degree from Ontario College of Art & Design University and her Master of Fine Arts degree from Stanford University.

She co-edited the book ALMANAC: An Index of Current Work and Thought (Stanford University, 2010). She was the 2011 visual arts curator for the Iranian Canadian Centre for Art & Culture’s interdisciplinary arts biennial, Tirgan. In 2012, she was the guest curator at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University where she curated Edward Weston: On Light, Line and Form. Most recently she co-curated New Constellations: Contemporary Iranian Video Art (screened at the Iranian Alliances Across Borders 2012 Conference in Los Angeles).

Her projects have been exhibited in venues such as University of Toronto Art Centre, Museum Bärengasse (Zurich), Art & Architecture Library at Stanford University, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography (Toronto), and Emirates Financial Towers (Dubai). Her artwork has been written about in Border Crossings, Nuva Luz, NOW magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and Dide.

Mazinani’s catalogue, Unfolding Images, was published by Bulger Gallery Press in 2012. She has recently received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and San Francisco Arts Commission for her art practice. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Magic of Persia Contemporary Art Prize, granted the Kala Art Institute Fellowship and was awarded the San Francisco Arts Commission Art on Market Street public art installation for 2013-2014.


Soheila K. Esfahani

Sohelila K. Esfahani’s art practice navigates the terrains of cultural translation in order to explore the processes involved in cultural transfer and transformation. Cultured Pallets is a transient installation series which uses shipping pallets that the artist marks with a variety of collected motifs and designs. The installation focuses on the etymology of “translation”– the process of carrying across. The artist uses these pallets as metaphors for the transfer of units of culture that represent “in-betweenness” by being in a permanent state of transit.

Soheila K. Esfahani grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1992. She received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo, and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario. Esfahani has practiced as an artist and educator for more than 10 years. She has received numerous awards and grants including the Research-Creation Grant in Fine Arts from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. As part of the SSHRC grant, Esfahani is currently a participant in a research/creation group entitled “Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds: Engaging Water as Culture and Resource through Contemporary Art” and took part in a related residency at the Banff Centre in May 2013. Her work is represented in public and private collections including the Canada Council’s Art Bank. She works from her studio at Kitchener’s artist-run centre, Globe Studios.


Negar Farajiani 

Negar Farajiani’s collages use puzzle shapes to obscure and highlight detail. Puzzle explores the confusion and jumble of meanings, through which the artist works to express the fragmented identity. She believes that life is similar to a puzzle, making up our destiny, culture, political, and social life. In this set of staged self-portraits, we see the artist as she moves through multiple states, changing appearances and sometimes disappearing into the objects that give us clues into her life.

Born in the historic city of Yazd, Iran, Negar Farajiani is an interdisciplinary artist and curator. She lives and works between Yazd and Tehran, working with a variety of media, including installation, painting, photography, and drawing. After graduating from the Art Institute of Tehran in 2000, she returned to Yazd and started painting abstract forms to uncover the truths about traditional and religious life. In 2003, Farajiani moved back to Tehran to continue painting and began to show her projects in galleries. She has had several solo exhibitions in Tehran and has been part of group exhibitions in Dubai, London, Brazil, China, Japan, and the United States. Since 2010, Farajiani has been curating two large collaborative projects, Destination Known and Tehran Monoxide Project. Both of these long-term projects involve the public, as they aim to collaboratively investigate social and environmental issues.


Gita Hashemi

In The Book of Illuminations, Gita Hashemi explores the intellectual and emotional nuances of her first language, Farsi. Having formally trained in calligraphy, she is interested in stretching the boundaries of this art form – which is usually viewed as sacred and/or decorative practice – to contain everyday experience. Hashemi juxtaposes two methodologies. In one, with pen on paper, she stacks layers of unpremeditated, uncensored and unedited writing in a ritual of remembering, recording and reflecting on her own life. In the other, using acrylics on paper, she explores idiomatic Farsi, drawing out its untranslatable humour and inherent visuality. Here the calligrapher is a scribe whose writing – what she brings to the page and/or keeps out – reflects her experience of her culture free from the outsider’s gaze. What gets redacted in the work after its writing illuminates her contemporary society at work. This project was supported by the Ontario Arts Council.

Gita Hashemi’s recent transmedia works include Headquarters: Pathology of an Ouster, investigating the 1953 US-UK coup d’etat in Iran, and Ephemeral Monument, focusing on the opposition to the Pahlavi monarchy. Both were staged at her solo exhibition at A Space Gallery in Toronto (March 2013) and will travel to Montréal, arts interculturels in November, 2013. She has exhibited at Interaccess Electronic Media Arts Centre (Toronto), Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts (San Francisco), SIGGRAPH (Los Angeles), Casoria Museum of Contemporary Art (Napels), Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Rosario (Argentina), Plug In (Basel), Al Kahf Art Gallery (Bethlehem), Red House Centre (Sofia) and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Yucatan (Merida) among others. Since she entered the School of Fine Arts in Tehran University shortly after the 1979 Revolution, her motto has been: the personal is poetic, the poetic is political, the political is personal.


Elnaz Maassoumian

Elnaz Maassoumian has a strong interest in the potentials of space and the relationship between the design of space and people’s everyday lives. Her work focuses on issues derived from her past in Iran and her environment in Canada as a new immigrant. The work in this exhibition springs from the artist’s readings of Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. The nest-like sculpture explores the architecture of imagination, as it considers different aspects of space – both physical and metaphorical – which can change over time. Maassoumian opens up for us the rich possibilities for redefining what is private/public, in/out, isolation/connection, and visible/invisible.

Elnaz Maassoumian is an artist and architectural visualizer, living and working in Toronto. After graduating in applied mathematics from the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran, she relocated to Vancouver and began studying visual arts at the University of British Columbia. She later moved to England to continue her studies, where she received her Master in Architectural Visualization degree at the University of Kent in 2012.


Naz Rahbar

Naz Rahbar’s work explores the concepts of home, memory, longing, belonging, distances, and the negative spaces in between. Often autobiographical, it deals with the dilemmas of one’s identity and existence in relation to others, as well as one’s surroundings. In this series of works on paper, which Rahbar began to develop during her thesis year at Ontario College of Art & Design University, miniature figures traverse the page, allowing the artist to explore the figure’s relationship to space and to one another. This project examines how a small mark can activate a space, what the negative space on a page might suggest, and the role of the figure in a place. Tracing back to her elementary and middle school years in Iran, these pieces tell abstract stories of distances traveled by plane and sensed in everyday life.

Naz Rahbar was born in Tehran, Iran in 1983. She immigrated to Canada along with her family at the age of thirteen. Following her passion for narrative drawing, Rahbar finished her studies at OCAD University in 2009, majoring in drawing and painting, with a minor in printmaking. She continued her studies in the arts by receiving a Bachelor of Education specializing in Fine Arts at York University in 2012. She currently lives and works in Toronto as an artist and art educator.


Sona Safaei-Sooreh

Sona Safaei-Sooreh’s work and process explores the notion of self and otherness, the linkages between one and many, and part /whole relationships in a decentralized global situation. In doing so, it elaborates on a number of concerns: differences among languages and cultures, lost meanings in translations, possibilities of communication across cultures, effects of creating a common knowledge, globalization and homogenization, artist/museum relationships, value and taste, and issues around diversity. 

The subject of Alphabet and Border is the amalgamation or meeting of two distinct poles, where a state of in-betweenness arises. Using the English and Farsi languages in her videos and installations, Safaei-Sooreh aims to highlight the distinctions between these cultures and where their borders meet.

Sona Safaei-Sooreh (born in 1981) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Toronto. She holds a BFA in painting from Azad University in Tehran, and a BFA in Sculpture/Installation from Ontario College of Art and Design University. She has shown her work nationally and internationally in KunstraumKreuzberg/Bethanien and NGBK (Berlin), DNA Projects (Sydney), XPACE (Toronto), Thomas Erben Gallery (New York), Iranian Pulse at SESC Vila Mariana (Sao Paulo), and Parkingallery (Tehran).

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