Current events, power, kingship and lyrical, storybook-like imagery intersect in Shiva Ahmadi’s video work Ascend. The artist depicts a curious and complex series of scenes that feature rustling leaves, faceless monkeys and a bubbling pool. Her animated watercolor painting morphs with a droning soundscape as the actions transition.
The video eventually arrives at a scene where an angel flies above the body of a small boy floating facedown in a pool. The haunting image is pulled from a September 2015 news story about Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old boy whose name in Arabic means “to ascend.” Alan drowned while he and his family were fleeing Syria, and his body washed up on a beach in Turkey. The sobering reality of this contemporary image is situated within Ahmadi’s established artistic vocabulary, which draws from Persian painting traditions and her own experiences with the effects of war, chaos and violence instigated by political and religious leadership.

Shiva Ahmadi’s Ascend, a 6-minute, 47-second single-channel video, runs on a continuous loop in the South Asian galleries.
Shiva Ahmadi was born in Tehran and received her B.F.A. from Azad University before moving to the U.S. and receiving her M.F.A .degrees in painting and drawing from the Cranbrook Academy and Wayne State University in Michigan. She currently lives and works in the Bay Area and is a faculty member at the University of California, Davis.