‘Wipe Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights clean of couples and men, and it’s a few naked women dancing across a fantastic pastel landscape – it’s Sanam Khatibi painting a magical world just ever so slightly detached from reality, firmly rooted in Renaissance imagery.’ So writes a 2017 reviewer of Khatibi’s work, which as well as echoes of Bosch includes elements of Lucas Cranach, Frida Kahlo, and delicate Persian miniatures.
We show here a selection of Khatabi’s work from 2016 up to her most recent paintings and tapestries, demonstrating how she works with both themes and techniques to create compositions of almost transparent female figures against backgrounds of pastel-coloured landscapes, the ghost-like women interacting with their surroundings while they explore their animal impulses. The last three paintings, ‘In My Dreams I Kill Him Every Night’, are from a 2022 sequence, leaving us wondering whether he is a lover, a baby, or both.
Sanam Khatabi’s most recent exhibitions include The Murders of the Green River at Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels (2019), in which she referenced the crimes of the serial killer Gary Ridgway in the Green River area of Washington State, Cruellest of the Seas at the Kunsthal in Ghent (2020), and Lemon Drizzle at the Groeningemuseum in Bruges (2021), which included a powerful title painting of a woman holding a smaller version of herself and peeing into a waterfall.
As Sanam Khatabi explains, ‘My female figures are the predators, the dominant figures, who are quite impulsive and playful. I suppose in a way they are all me – and bits and pieces of us all.’