Although these recent prints saw their release in February of this year, it was back in July of 2020 that we first got the chance to work with this artist’s still ongoing project. Discovering the Iranian artist’s work online, Black Dragon Press had commissioned her playing cards for the purpose of releasing a set of art prints, duly doing so in eight 12”x16” editions of 100.
The response to the release was nothing short of explosive, with all 800 prints selling in relatively short order. Established fans of the artist’s work will have no doubt turned out to secure a piece of her art, but also a broader picture emerged, where the captivating appeal of the project had a clear resonance with a new audience.
The reaction is perhaps unsurprising, as there is something attention grabbing and wholly of-the-moment about the scenarios and character interactions depicted within Farhadkiaei’s artworks. When one considers that the longstanding deck of playing cards has at its heart some fundamental questions about gender stereotyping, it is refreshing to see this tacit acceptance turned so paradigmatically on its head. A neat trick is when art convinces us that we are seeing something we recognise, invites us to pass on by without question, only to tear down one’s heedless acquiescence in the short moment it takes to draw a second glance.
Another neat trick is to do this in a non-confrontational way.
The instantly recognisable playing card motif is a perfect vehicle for disarming the viewer, and there is a playfulness in the way that Farhadkiaei’s four royal families conduct themselves that allows questions to be asked about our ever-expanding societal boundaries, without demanding that the viewer be in possession of the answers. We are simply bystanders, having an experience of some ways in which things could be different. From this carefully constructed position, Farhadkiaei’s project not only challenges the traditional questions we have about the expectations of gender, but it also looks more broadly at the expectation of family obligation, the social pressures we feel weighing upon our identity and sexuality, and also what it means to stand up and say “I don’t care so much for that person, who you say that I have to be!”
The ruse of court intrigue establishes the project’s stance, and the pretence of royals courting delivers the thought-provoking blows.
After the prints that sold in July of 2020 were such a hit, it was only a matter of time before popular demand required a second set of editions from the artist and gallery. Black Dragon Press worked hand-in-hand with Mahdieh Farhadkiaei to create an entirely updated set of screenprints, revitalising some of the original artworks, while adding a number of new creations. Nine editions were produced, this time at an impressive 60cmx80cm, and with the yellow of the first editions swapped for an indulgent and shimmery metallic gold.
We would love to tell you that these are available to buy, but the second editions went on a timed sale in February, with all numbers final and each artwork in this iteration never to be reprinted. Nevertheless, the content of the project remains live, and we’re regularly seeing new additions appearing on the artist’s socials. There is every chance that this project will run until the entire deck is complete.
Mahdieh Farhadkiaei’s Playing Cards, 1st and 2nd editions, were screenprinted at the White Duck Editions studio. Although the prints are now unavailable, we strongly recommend you visit the artist’s work, as well as the Black Dragon Press gallery. By doing so, there is much more great work to be discovered.