Farhad Ahrarnia was born in Shiraz in 1971 and holds a degree in Experimental and Documentary Film Theory and Practice from the Northern Media School, Sheffield Hallam University, UK.
Farhad Ahrarnia’s practice comprises a diverse range of meticulously crafted works that cover questions of ideological narratives, national identity and intercultural exchange. He is deeply influenced by the traditions of his hometown Shiraz; his methodology consists of ancient techniques associated with its indigenous culture such as embroidery, metalwork and mosaic to draw on sociocultural constructions and motives that reference national codes. The series of silver-plated copper dustpans and shovels embossed with fragments of Shiraz, explore Iran’s perished glory. With a sense of irony, these mundane utensils are transformed to recall the country’s historical richness and forgotten grandeur.
Another key influence is Kazimir Malevich, the works of that modernist Suprematism being reminiscent of the urban labyrinth that was Shiraz in the seventies and eighties, where Ahrarnia grew up amidst modernist architecture overlaying ancient ruins to create a dynamic city. The sublime beauty and quasi-religious experience inherent to Malevich’s work address a universality which is transcendent of national cultures and identities.
Iconic models of American culture such as Hollywood portraiture, beauty pageants, Time magazine covers or heroic war photography are overlaid with embroidery which imbues them a further layer of meaning - tactile, personal and immersive, inviting reflection on the actual significance of these otherwise self-evident images. The stitching and loose threads inflicted on these mass-distributed images symbolize their media-constructed nature and the ideologies and power structures that are embedded within.
By juxtaposing traditional Orientalist craft techniques and paragons of popular culture, Ahrarnia thus explores the dichotomy between Islamic traditions and Western society’s aspiration for progress and modernity.
Ahrarnia has exhibited in several solo shows such as: Something for the Touts, the Nuns, the Grocery Clerks and You, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2017; Manouchehri Merchant House, Kashan, Iran, 2016; A Dish Fit for the Gods, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2015; Stage on Fire, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK, 2014; Canary in a Coal Mine, Rose Issa Projects, London, 2014; Stitched, Leighton House Museum in collaboration with Rose Issa Projects, London, UK, 2008; Stitched, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK, 2008; Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, UK, 2005; and Home, Bessie Sertees House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, 2004.
Ahrarnia has participated in several group shows including: Punk Orientalism, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Canada, 2019; Artissima, Dialogue sector, with Lawrie Shabibi, Torino, Italy, 2018; Each Day an Artist, Dubai, UAE, 2018; Scripted Reality, London, 2018; Works on Paper, Editions and Multiples Spring 2018, Aaran Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2018; Contemporary Iran, Art Monte Carlo and Magic of Persia, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, 2018; Primeval, Art of Wood, Aaran Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2017; Trans-Trans-Figuration: Sheikh Safi's Anecdote & Any Expandable Thing, the Lajevardi Foundation,Tehran, Iran, 2017; Dallas Art Fair, with Lawrie Shabibi, Texas, USA, 2017; Art Dubai Contemporary, with Lawrie Shabibi, UAE, 2017; Shirin Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2016; Abu Dhabi Art, with Lawrie Shabibi, UAE, 2016; Unseen, Lawrie Shabibi, UAE, 2016; Dallas Art Fair, with Lawrie Shabibi, Texas, USA, 2016; Recentring Modernism, Insights Sector, Art Basel Hong Kong, with Lawrie Shabibi, 2016; Serpentiform, Palazzo Braschi, Museo di Roma, Rome, Italy, 2016; The Great Game, Iranian Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015; What Remains part I & II, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK, 2014; Tehran, what kind of Modern, Sheffield Fringe UK, 2014; Open Your Eyes, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK, 2014; The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE, 2013; Embroidermania, Hinterland Kunzt Art for Vienna Art Week, Vienna, Austria, 2013; Bringing the War Home, Winchester School of Art, Winchester, UK, 2013; Aks: Pictorial representations from Iran, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK, 2012; Cometogether, Edge of Arabia, London, UK, 2012; Migrasophia, Maraya art Centre, Sharjah, UAE, 2012; Quotations from Daily Life, 6th Tashkent Biennale of Contemporary Art, Rose Issa Projects, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2011; Zendegi: Twelve Contemporary Iranian Artists, Rose Issa Projects, Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut, Lebanon, 2011; Contemporary art: the territory of the artist and society, 6th Tashkent Biennale, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2011; Bringing the War Home, Impressions Gallery, Bradford, UK, 2010-12; Balla Drama, Paradise Row Gallery, London, UK, 2009; A Picture of Us, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, UK, 2009; Magic of Persia, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2009; and Sheffield Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Italy, 2007.
His work is in several collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), LA, California, USA; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia; the British Museum, London, UK; Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, UK; Harewood House, Leeds, UK; The Mohammed Afkhami Collection, Dubai, UAE and the Huma Kabakci Collection, Istanbul, Turkey.
Ahrarnia lives and works between Shiraz and Sheffield.