Shila Khatami paints with a gesture brimming with glorious contradictions. There should be nothing discrete about a mark that covers so much territory with such directional urgency – and yet these wide, dissipating strokes can at times be delicate, translucent – almost veil-like.

Andrew Jensen

Artist Shila Khatami with Emma Fox in her Berlin studio
Emma Fox, Shila Khatami Studio, berlin 2022

The gestures’ progress across expansive linen fields feels both determined yet open. The openness of the gesture, its freedom from graphic obligation allows it to remain untethered to description of anything, other than its own purposeful movement and character. But let’s be clear these are not fetishized gestures claiming divine inspiration – no “kabuki” theatre here. Nor do these performative strokes speak only to process. Such insularity ignores the context and the environment that Khatami paints in and this feels relevant.

Where other painters – one thinks of Soulage or Ufan for example, who willed their brushstrokes to denote gravity and authenticity, Khatami seems to want to liberate the brushstroke from showmanship and ultimately from the confinement and (mostly misplaced) reverence that such performance insinuates and demands.

Exempt from these “cultivated” aspirations, Khatami’s work on occasion abandons the support entirely, steps off the stretcher and into the void, colliding with the wall, the floor and putting us further inside its roving anatomy.

Unquestionably there is a gritty, ‘graf-like’ energy to some of Khatami’s works, happily infected by the backyard-aesthetics of her Berlin studio – but my sense is that as “urban” as these works might appear at first look, there is a subtler and more metaphysical dimension to her work – qualities that emerge through her regime of making and the judgement she possesses.

These are paintings that weave personal intent with an open, osmotic embrace of environment. Their synthesis of the personal and the empirical feels considered – natural.




Shila Khatami at her Studio, berlin 2022