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"Romantic and joyful": A vibrant new exhibition by Iranian artist Elham Etemadi opens in Lyon

Elham Etemadi's Painting
Elham Etemadi's Painting Copyright Mina Pourabdollah Toutkaboni/Euronews
Copyright Mina Pourabdollah Toutkaboni/Euronews
By Farhad Mirmohammadsadeghi
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Each narrative piece invites viewers to discover wonders, rooted in the creator's homeland. With vivid, bright colours inspired by traditional markets and Iranian carpets, these dynamic scenes now adorn the walls of the Philippe Bettan Gallery in Lyon.


The Philippe Bettan Gallery in Lyon, France has opened a new exhibition featuring the works of young Iranian painter Elham Etemadi, curated by artistic director Aida Mojallal.

Etemadi, who has exhibited her art in galleries around the world, finds her paintings subconsciously influenced by the changes and events in her homeland. 

"In my works, the subconscious reveals itself through symbols, layered techniques, compositions where sometimes women take the central role," she explains. "This issue has not always been directly and explicitly present in my works, but I cannot say it has not had an indirect and subconscious influence."

With a PhD in visual arts from the University of Strasbourg, Etemadi reflects on Iran's impact on her art: "The homeland always influences the visual aspects of any painter's works, like the mother tongue; from the colour palette, forms, composition, and storytelling in my works. The world I want to define is influenced by the storytelling culture of our land, which has always played a central role in my works. The colours and imagery of Iranian carpets and traditional markets manifest themselves in my work."

Elham Etemadi, Painter
Elham Etemadi, PainterMina Pourabdollah Toutkaboni/Euronews

Aida Mojallal, the French-Iranian artistic director at Philippe Bettan Gallery, describes Etemadi's work as "romantic and joyful, with an artistic combination that captivates the eye." 

She recounts discovering Etemadi's art through another artist in Switzerland, and being immediately impressed by its originality and narrative depth. 

"Her works, often large in scale, illustrate a visual search for balance using geometric shapes and empty spaces to guide the eye," Mojallal says.

The Philippe Bettan Gallery, previously known as "Alain Georges," has a 47-year history as one of eastern France's most important galleries. 

Philippe Bettan, the gallery's director and owner, had primarily focused on traditional post-impressionist, and impressionist works before collaborating with Mojallal. 

"Thanks to Aida, with whom I have been collaborating for six months, I am exploring diversity in paintings beyond my usual realm," he says.

Philippe Bettan, Gallery director
Philippe Bettan, Gallery directorMina Pourabdollah Toutkaboni/Euronews

Mojallal also comments on the differing perspectives of Eastern and Western audiences on art: "Some people are sensitive to the traditional codes for the country's way. Others reject identity markers related to origins, ethnic[ity] or religion. Each person views a work of art through the lens of their own experience and background." 

She emphasises that emotions and cultural upbringing shape one's perception of art.

Budget Cuts and European elections

Earlier this year, French Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, announced a €204 million cut to the country's cultural budget, primarily affecting the "artistic creation" sector. This reduction, part of President Emmanuel Macron's broader €10 billion budget cut, faced significant backlash from cultural activists, who accused Macron of sacrificing art and culture.

Aida Mojallal, Art Director and Curator
Aida Mojallal, Art Director and CuratorMina Pourabdollah Toutkaboni/Euronews

Mojallal acknowledges the intent behind these budget cuts, noting, "there's still no clarity on the matter. Without a clear decision, I cannot provide my personal opinion. The aim, I know, is to allocate public funds more efficiently and to recognise and review the situation." 

As the cultural community looks forward to the upcoming European Union elections, there is hope that the EU's "Creative Europe" program will provide increased financial support. With a budget of €2.44 billion for 2021-2027, "Creative Europe" aims to bolster cultural diversity and support the creative sectors.

Mojallal adds, "Creative Europe [has] invested in actions that strengthen cultural diversity and address the needs and challenges of culture and the creative sectors. Observing Article 164 of the Finance Law for 2024, the amount of France's contribution to the European Union budget is evaluated to €21.609 billion, So the European Parliament could allocate additional funds to support artistic education initiatives in Member States, especially France, which is the second largest contributor."

Elham Etemadi's exhibition at the Philippe Bettan Gallery continues until June 13.

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