Laleh Khorramian on show Saturns Neckless: ‘It is all about reflecting the absurdity of the human condition’

The characters in the works of Laleh Khorramian's exhibition live in a world that is strange, simultaneously ancient and futuristic — and walking into it is like entering another dimension.

Laleh Khorramian’s artworks on show in the Saturns Neckless exhibition at The Third Line gallery in Dubai. Courtesy Laleh Khorramian and The Third Line, Dubai
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When Laleh Khorramian talks about the creation of her work, she describes the process almost as if she is a bystander.

Bright, colourful and bold, the figures that populate her artworks are like characters in a story. In the case of her latest show, at the The Third Line gallery in Dubai, the tale is more like a sci-fi novel, considering the features of these characters: oversized heads, pointed ears, multiple limbs.

“My characters devise themselves,” says Khorramian. “They come from a different place and in this case, I am presenting them in their own world.”

That world is strange, simultaneously ancient and futuristic — and walking into the exhibition is like entering another dimension.

On the wall are several monotype prints from a series Khorramian calls Aliens. They are made by putting paint and other materials, such as rock and stones, onto glass and then making a print.

Made with black paint, the portraits look charred and skeletal. The results were so surprising to the artist that she cried for two days.

“I thought they were self portraits and they were so ugly that I was scared that this is what was in my subconscious,” she says.

“After a few days, I wondered whether they are actually very beautiful and it is just my perception that sees them as ugly.”

The other pieces in the exhibition are much larger portraits made from collage, which are genderless and raceless. Khorramian calls them Guardians.

In the centre of the exhibition are several larger-than-life kimono fabrics, set up on stands so that they represent headless figures. They are arranged in a loose circle, almost as if they are taking part in an ancient ritual.

The whole show is oddly intriguing and perplexing. It seems to have been executed freely, without too much conscious thinking, as a way of representing our own, at times bizarre, existence.

“I think in a way it is all about reflecting the absurdity of the human condition,” says Khorramian. “We all go through insecurities, we all go through being afraid of our demons and fear of failure and, for me, these figures are alive and they are open to interpretation.”

The show is titled Saturns Neckless. This is not a spelling mistake but a deliberate attempt to bring a touch of humour to the show.

“It is a play on words that is somehow evocative of the headless figures in my show but also light-hearted,” says Khorramian. “I didn’t want a heavy, meaningful title as we have enough of that in our daily lives. This is also supposed to be fun and free.”

Also on display are pieces on which Khorramian collaborated with Lisbon-based artist Mumtazz. They are bodysuits that take inspiration from ancient armature. Again, they seem to evoke another realm.

“The artist is a visionary creature in society and is connected to something beyond the earth itself,” says Khorramian. “Perhaps, this is where my characters belong.”

• Laleh Khorramian’s Saturns Neckless is at The Third Line until December 10. For more details, visit