Moscow-based Azerbaijani artist Aidan Salahova is a pioneer of contemporary sculpture and installation, known for her bold explorations of gender and sensuality. She comes from a renown artistic family – she is the daughter of famed Azerbaijani artist Tahir Salahov, her mother was an artist, and her grandmother was the first woman to dance onstage in Uzbekistan after the revolution. Aidan created her own identity as a visual artist through her skilled use of classical techniques in novel ways. She graduated from the Surikov Moscow State Art Institute and now teaches at the academy in addition to producing her own work for shows around the world.
She is a prolific artist – she has had over thirty solo exhibitions and has shown her work twice at the Venice Biennale – the first time in 1990, she was featured in the Russian Pavilion, and then she again presented work in 2011, in the Azerbaijani pavilion. In 2012, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art held a large survey exhibition of her work entitled “FASCINANS AND TREMENDUM.’ In 2013 she was a finalist for the prestigious Kandinsky Prize for leading contemporary artists. Also in 2013, she presented a solo collection of sculpture entitled ‘Out of Body’ at Cuadro Gallery in Dubai, UAE. In 2016, she opened the exhibition ‘Revelations’ at the Saatchi Gallery in London, UK, to rave reviews and in 2017, she exhibited her work at the One Monev Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria. She continues to create new work and teach, and is a well-known figure in Moscow and abroad.
While Aidan works across various media including painting, drawing, video and installation, she is most famous for her marble sculpture. She spends much of her time in Carrera, Italy, sourcing marble from the world’s finest quarries, and then carving her polished and refined artworks from the stone. Aidan uses playful forms that reference masculine and feminine gender, challenging viewers to consider how they interpret gender when viewing artwork. She also uses geometry and architectural shapes as metaphors for power dynamics. Aidan’s sculptures often confront social norms and her work can be controversial – she presents a strong feminine perspective, and subverts familiar imagery of femininity, questioning the patriarchy and the masculine gaze when it is applied to female bodies. One of the most familiar elements in her sculpture is the veil – a common garment used in various religious and cultural traditions, including Islam and Christianity. However, her intention is not to critique religion or cultural traditions, but rather to see different aspects of feminine agency as universal conditions across all cultures. Aidan’s veiled sculptural figures reveal as much as they hide, using gestures with their hands to suggest inner identity and thoughts – the veil is used to show the separation between public life and inner life, but the hands tell the story of what lies within the heart, often unspoken. She uses this imagery to ask us to reconsider how we see female agency, and how things that can oppress can also liberate when seen from a different perspective. In her more intimate work, such as her drawings and paintings, she uses the medium to explore the delicacy of femininity inspired by the Persian and Azerbaijani tradition of miniature painting. In her two-dimensional work, veiled figures interact with one another and show individual and collective social layers of feminine identity. Aidan’s vision is bold and transformative – by reorienting the viewers gaze to consider the inner voice of women of her visual art, she presents a liberated perspective for women to speak for themselves.