Pouran Jinchi’s poetic landscapes bring weeds out of the long grass at Dubai exhibition

Iranian artist uses dreamlike paintings of dandelions as metaphors for migration, hope and laying down roots

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Pouran Jinchi’s landscapes in her solo exhibition Fly Like Dandelions at The Third Line gallery are poetic fabrications depicting the ruins left by migration.

The ink paintings are a celebration of weeds and their beautiful, delicate flowers so often ignored. To her, they are a strong metaphor for migration, or namely those forced to migrate, and she aims to strike an emotional chord with viewers while instilling a sense of hope.

The Iranian artist spent five years completing this body of work, which is on show at the gallery in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.

“This whole series started with studying weeds,” Jinchi tells The National.

“When I was researching I noticed that the language used to describe weeds is very negative. There were a lot of similar words that were used to describe immigrants and migration.”

The ink paintings of various sizes include her strangely charming landscapes and detailed studies of floating dandelion pappuses against stark blue backgrounds of various shades.

“Dandelions are considered a global weed but I call them flowers,” she adds.

“You find them everywhere. That was another reason I was more interested in them – the way they travel. They are rooted very heavily and they're very strong, but the flowers are very delicate.”

Jinchi had been reading about climate change as part of her research for some time. But it was an article titled "Great Climate Migration" in The New York Times, published in three parts in 2020, that helped her imagine the real impact of the climate crises on individuals through the power of storytelling.

The article detailed the story of a Guatemalan farmer, Jorge, who was forced to leave from his farm due to the impact of climate change on the environment and agriculture.

“We read many articles about climate change, displacement and all that, but it was the way this story was written ... I could really visualise their lives,” she says.

“It showed how they were so desperate, they were hoping for rain, and then rain came so heavily it washed off all their hard work. They basically had no hope to have a life in Guatemala.”

The story brought to light for Jinchi the intersection and complexities between climate change and human migration. As a migrant herself, first as a teenager from Iran to the US and then recently to Portugal, Jinchi understood all too well the many facets of the migrant’s experience.

“Migration is not easy,” she says.

“It happens through difficult lands and especially as climate change changes land, it even gets more difficult. So it was intentional for me to give the paintings a specific feeling.”

Dreamlike, with elements of the surreal and gothic, Jinchi’s imaginary landscapes are full of distorted and exaggerated forms.

“I wanted the landscapes to kind of be dystopian,” Jinchi says.

“I did not want them to be these cheerful landscape paintings, I wanted to give out that feeling and to portray migration.”

Some of the more striking elements are the patterns across the landscapes, particularly her leafless trees.

Through delicate brushstrokes, the elegantly coiled trees from a distance appear embroidered or embossed on the surface. It is, however, a technical illusion achieved through Jinchi’s application of different kinds of ink. The trees are flat, formed using a stylised Farsi script. The word "darakhet", which means tree, is painted over and over again to create the wiry, nimble trunks and branches.

“I always remain devoted to my style and my style at some level always incorporates calligraphy,” she says.

“It might not be traditional calligraphy, though. And it comes also naturally to me because that's how I know how to make a painting. I don't know how else to make a painting.”

While initially the themes in Jinchi’s work could be read as dark, she explores and frames them in a way so they sit across many layers.

The landscape acts as a metaphor for what happens after migration no matter the reason. But they are also a warning, illustrated like a tragic fairytale, of what the world might transform into due to climate change.

The two concepts are directly connected, through their harrowing effects on great swaths of people's lives but also, in how Jinchi frames them, through a sense of hope.

“Dandelions are a metaphor for migration [to me] and it’s definitely that hope that I wanted to bring to this series,” she says.

“Because that's also very important for humanity, that we have to have hope. Without hope, we just stand still and do nothing.”

Across her landscape paintings and her dispersing dandelions, Jinchi’s work is meticulously crafted but doesn’t feel strained by her dedication to the decorative elements of lines and patterns. Equally so, it was important for her that themes of climate change and migration weren’t heavy-handed.

“It was just really putting a message out there and hopefully seducing the viewer to pay attention to the paintings,” she says.

“I want to send a message to a viewer that’s on everyone's mind, that this is something we all should be conscious about, without being preachy. I’d like the viewer to walk away from my work with a sense of hope.”

Pouran Jinchi's exhibition Fly Like Dandelions will be running at The Third Line, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, until Friday

Updated: February 15, 2024, 3:04 AM