Although best known for his finely detailed, gestural textile works, it is the knowledge, histories and questions layered behind the stitches that render Areez Katki’s pieces not merely distinctive, but profound. His practice brings to mind the words of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has warned against the “danger of a single story”.
Through his intertwined textile and writing practices, Katki tells tales of immense complexity, moving deftly across his chosen mediums to explore multi-threaded histories and identities, revealing the tangled complexity where each strand intersects with another to prove that a single story is not only dangerous, but impossible.
Katki’s poetic textile works often take the form of repurposed household textiles – handkerchiefs, tea towels, table runners, rugs – delicately stitched with brightly hued, wriggling geometric patterns, regularly displayed strung on a line like the most beautiful laundry. Sometimes his signature wiggles and chain-stitched curlicues swirl into more figurative images.
In his oeuvre, we can locate tales of his Parsi ancestors, who fled Persia in the face of religious persecution and carried their ancient monotheistic faith of Zoroastrianism with them to Gujarat. We can find Katki himself, a queer child of the Parsi diaspora settled in East Auckland, returning to his birthplace of Mumbai to learn the tambour needle technique commonly used in commercial Parsi gara embroidery; following Parsi textile traditions to their origins in Iran, Gujarat and West Azerbaijan, learning the Parsi art of making torans (beaded valances) along the way.
But Katki’s work does not follow a linear story. By employing traditional mark-making processes – not just embroidery but also weaving, printmaking, staining – to depict intersectional aspects of his identity and the world around him, Katki’s work weaves history, culture, faith, gender and sexuality together, the intricacy of these relations reflected and made tangible through stitches and stains.
Steeped in so many stories, crafted with memory and lore, Katki’s artworks are unique, completely unlike anything else being produced in Aotearoa today.
His work has been been exhibited across Oceania, Asia, North America and Europe and is held in private and public collections around the world. Recent exhibition include Bildungsroman, Malcolm Smith Gallery-touring solo (2019-2021), Uncruising, Phoenix Athens (2019), History reserves but a few lines for you, Enjoy (2021) and There is no other home but this, Govett-Brewster (2022).
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