Pictures with invisible meanings

Zakiria Tahirian''s work Untitled - a work of ink and gold on paper.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Only a dark light can reveal what lies hidden on the surface of Zakiria Tahirian’s work.

The Dandenong artist has riddled invisible ink and UV ink figures onto his abstract creations –revealed only under red and blue light or glowing in the dark.

These hidden motifs are much like the experience of a refugee, Tahirian says.

“When refugees come to Australia they have a really happy face.

“But on the inside, they’re missing home, they’re missing friends and starting a new life.”

All of his work’s hidden imagery will be revealed at the annual HOME exhibition in Dandenong.

Tahirian is one of six selected artists from an asylum seeker or refugee background taking part in the City of Greater Dandenong show from 3 October.

The invisible ink technique evolved from being a cheat method for Tahirian and his friends during school exams in Pakistan.

It was especially handy in maths and biology tests, Tahirian recalls.

An Afghan Hazara, he fled from the perils of targeted suicide bombings in Pakistan.

“I had come from a place that was tough for artists. There wasn’t appreciation there.

“It was hard to make a living. And people don’t understand what art is – it’s a bit annoying.”

Despite the obstacles, he trained at the Hatif Art School and set up Pakistan’s “first serious art” gallery.

As a curator and workshop facilitator, he paved the way for a new generation of artists and art appreciation.

He still remains close with a creative network of 20 friends, sculptors, film-makers, painters and writers from his former home.

Tahirian arrived in Australia in 2017, within months taking part in his first HOME exhibition.

“I was new to the country and new to the industry – it was a great opportunity to be part of it.

“My topic was all about myself and the journey.

“I came here to be safe.”

Two years on, he paints houses to support himself and his family. He’s the only one of seven family members that is working.

Fitting in time for art is all about “management”, he says.

“For everyone it’s tough. You start a new life and it’s a bit challenging.

“I’m just happy that I’m here.”

HOME is at Walker Street Gallery, corner Walker and Robinson streets Dandenong from 3 October–2 November. The official launch is Saturday 5 October, 2pm-4pm.

It also features a series of talks and workshops with the artists.



Your first stop before buying a home. View the whole picture.