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Song of Myself

Human hair on calf vellum

1. Song of Myself (Self-portrait 1986), 2016

2. Song of Myself (Self-portrait 2014), 2016

3. Song of Myself (Self- portrait 1980), 2017

4. Song of Myself (Self-portrait 1987),  2017

36 x 30 cm

The title of my work is “Song of Myself” and comes from a poem first published in (1855) by the American poet, essayist and journalist, Walt Whitman (1819-1892). The key to the poem lies in the "concept of self" (typified by Whitman) as "both individual and universal," the “self” as the human ideal but one of the common people rather than the epic hero. Citing the hero in every individual, the poem celebrates the body and the spirit from the singular to the cosmic.


Song of Myself:


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.


I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.


My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same.

Song of Myself, Soheila Sokhanvari

My work consists of four framed drawings using human hair, based on the idea of self-portrait in the age of digital technology and the concept of the historic representation of the artist’s self-portrait. These series belong to a concept of symbolic self-portraits that I have engaged with since 2015.  These abstract shapes originate from the idea that as I have been absent from Iran since I was a child, hence my nonexistence from family photographs, I have drawn the negative shapes between people and objects in family photographs as my self-portrait, in a sense to reclaim my existence in these events. The drawings using human hair to outline or to trace these shapes represent an absence and a presence where a negative space becomes a positive manifestation. The drawings are done on calf vellum (parchment) which is derived from skin of calf; an animal that is used in most monotheistic religions as the sacrificial animal which here symbolizes the sacrifice of the individual.

Soheila Sokhanvari

Soheila Sokhanvari is a British Iranian artist, born in Shiraz whose multimedia work cultivates a non-uniform practice though her themes are rooted in the notions of collective trauma, power and hope told through the narrative of the individual.

Trained in Persian Miniature painting by her father as a child, her practice includes painting and drawing with egg tempera, Iranian Crude Oil and human hair on calf vellum as well as sculpture. Her employment of egg tempera on vellum in the traditional practice of creating colour slows down the art making process, which in the time of rapid global consumer society functions as a form of "resistance and anarchy”.

Also in the light of the Duchampian statement that “Since the tubes of paint used by the artist are manufactured and ready made products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are 'readymades aided'”, her paintings function as an “anti-readymade”.

Soheila Sokhanvari graduated in 2006 with a PGDip in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design and MFA Fine Art from Goldsmiths College in 2011. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, showing in “Champagne Life,” an all-female group exhibition at Saatchi Gallery 2016, Jerwood Drawing Prize 2015, one of the top ten UK new graduates shortlisted for the Catlin Art Prize in 2012 and as one of the top seven new art graduates for exTRAct at GL Strand, Copenhagen (2012).

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