We are so proud of all our amazing Northbound artists, and we love introducing them to you and speaking to them about their artwork! 

Elham Fatapour is a Toronto-based artist born in Tehran, Iran. Elham’s art practice focuses on traumatic Middle East geopolitics in relation to her personal narratives. Keep reading to learn more about Elham and her upcoming exhibition, My Story

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your arts practice.

I am a Toronto based artist born in Tehran, Iran. My passion for sociology, politics, and visual storytelling propelled me into the world of professional arts. After moving to Canada I studied Illustration and currently I am completing my masters degree in visual arts at York University.

I use imagery, colour and technique to charge my paintings with empathy and present them in mixed media installations that encompass the viewer. 

Briefly describe your two series, My Story and Erosion, and how they come together in this exhibition.

My imagery incorporates culturally symbolic materials, such as carpet fragments, to express my social and political investigations. Through the integration of domestic textiles, historic patterns and figures in my work, I aim to conceptually implicate all people. This inquiry has led to “My Story” series of over 10 life sized paintings that would be installed relative to the viewpoint portrayed. Each of the gestures and viewpoints suggest aspects of my autobiography as an immigrant artist.

This series will be accompanied with another series of monochromatic portraits and figurative paintings titled “Erosion”. These paintings are based on the injustices suffered by children due to political authorities and war. I aim to give a visual voice to a few of those children. I use photographs as my starting point. Their colourless existence affected me deeply and so this series was conceived of as monochromatic. By depicting these children, I feel as if I am providing them with a sense of the other side of the world, perhaps even as if I had switched lives with them.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your interpretation of war and its connection to the body?

The geopolitical context of my experience in this part of the world and sharing it has shaped a big part of my practice as an artist. I am responding to the increasingly global context in which we all now live.

Obviously one of the inevitable consequences of war is immigration. Immigration could be by force or choice and either one has their own side effects.

The connection of war and the body is how these displaced individuals, in greater numbers than ever, fit into the future. There is resilience in cases of displacement, and this can wear down an individual or a group.

What conversations do you hope to spark with this exhibition?

I often paint a large quantity of figurative work, at life scale. I hope the installation of this work immerses the viewer and in doing so, opens a dialogue about the survivorship of displaced peoples.

In my “Erosion” series, the process of making these images involves painting with oils, which are then obfuscated by solvent to make them blurry and monochromatic. In this way, I comment on the often forgotten and transient nature of many of these refugees’ lives. I am hoping this could resolve in creating an open pathway for sharing my perspective with the viewers. This exhibition includes several empty canvases to show the absence of those who passed away, vanished or were forgotten. I hope this installation could provoke the same emotional effect on my audience. Through my art, I want to make visible the unrecognized injustices that continue to unfold around the world.


My Story will be on display from Sept 25 – Oct 10 at the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media and Education. Public gallery hours are from Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. Elham will also be doing an Artist Talk on Saturday, September 28 from 2 – 3 pm, and the gallery will be open until 5 pm. 

An opening reception for Elham’s exhibit will take place on Thursday, September 26 from 6-9 pm. This event is free to attend! Click here to RSVP. 

For more information, visit https://www.northyorkarts.org/project/fatapour/

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator