Sepideh Farzam, Losing Eyes for Freedom, 2023.


Sepideh Farzam, a Sydney based Iranian contemporary artist, was announced as winner of the prestigious $40,000 biennial acquisitive Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award for 2023 for her work Losing Eyes for Freedom, 2023 at the official opening at the Wangaratta Art Gallery on Saturday 10 June. 

The collaborative work was driven by the Farzam’s observation and deep concern around the ongoing discrimination and severe restrictions of women’s rights in Iran. The work is inspired by the recent protests by women on the streets of Iran, following the death in police custody of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the morality police for wearing her hijab or hair covering incorrectly. As a result, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more imprisoned for demonstrating against the regime. Protesters have been violently attacked, and 500 were blinded as a consequence. 

Inspired by these terrible events, Sepideh Farzam commissioned a craft-woman (unnamed) to hand weave a carpet representing the young women hand in hand. Farzam then hand-stitched waxed threads through each girls’ face to represent the bleeding and blind eyes. 

Judging the Award this year was Dr Rebecca Coates, an accomplished museum director, curator, public speaker, writer, and lecturer. In choosing the winner Coates commented on the important conversation and awareness the artwork presented to capture current issues of the time: 

This year, I was looking for artists’ works that demonstrating an excellence in material practice in whatever form, and which talked to our shared understanding of the world in which we live. A work that touched the heart, the mind, and the soul. The winning work by Sepideh Farzam, Losing Eyes for Freedom (2023), a handwoven carpet with waxed threads, is impressive in scale, collaborative in nature, and speaks to our times. Like many of the weaving traditions it draws on, it made through collaboration. And like many traditional crafts often done by women, alludes to the often-invisible nature of many of these repetitive tasks.  

 "The work also talks to a larger truth, and the systemic abuse and treatment of women in many countries that continues to this day: forbidden to drive, forbidden to go to school, forbidden to protest, and the results of what, for us, are every-day acts. These are conversations that must continue to be had in a country like Australia, and ones that we can’t take for granted. " 

The recently announced partnership between Wangaratta Art Gallery and the Kyamba Foundation where the prize money was increased from $10,000 to $40,000, ensures the awards strong commitment to honouring the best practitioners of contemporary textile art from across Australia, the 2023 exhibition presents 29 works that all deserve recognition on a national platform. Visitors will not be disappointed by what is now the most prestigious textile art event in Australia. 

Read the catalogue.

Sepideh Farzam, Losing Eyes for Freedom, 2023, hand woven carpet, waxed threads, 210 x 166cm.