Art Aware is a non-profit-making blog that monitors all that’s interesting in the world of contemporary art, literature and culture in Iran and in the Iranian worldwide diaspora.
It is a review and commentary of new exhibitions, events and developments in art media in Iran and in the West. I am a working artist and also an academic art historian.
Farrokh Mahadavi is a painter and a boxer. He says that
he hears nothing when he fights because his entire being is focused on
moving and weaving about the ring.
He brings a similar tautness to his
canvases, too; images of bare torsos that he has worked and pummelled
into a paired-down pink mass against a white background. The flesh is
raw and tenderised, it slopes to indecorous contours and sinewy folds.
thing is crystal clear,” says Rokni Haerizadeh, one of Iran’s most
eminent contemporary artists, who has selected works by Mahadavi for a
group show – What Lies Beneath, Second Edition – of emerging Iranian talent due to open on September 10 at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde.
is no spirituality or spiritual meaning around his bodies: if he shows a
heart, for instance, it’s just the heart that is inside your body. It
is rough, tough work,” he says.
What Lies Beneath, Second Edition has been conceived – not curated –by Haerizadeh and is a continuation of a project that was initiated last year.
makes a clear distinction on his role because the exhibition seeks to
present the development of a group of six young artists that he,
together with his brother, the artist Ramin Haerizadeh, has provoked and
challenged since their last showing.
than individual works curated for the show, the second edition of the
project features, with the exception of two, the same artists presented
at the gallery in February last year. “I don’t believe that you should
keep on introducing new artists all the time,” says Haerizadeh. “There
have been so many new names passing through galleries here that you
can’t necessarily trust them on just one exhibition. It’s important that
the audience see the evolution of an artist’s work.”
shows touting the next big thing in Iranian art have taken place this
year in Dubai alone. Galleries and collectors may well be looking for a
new generation of Iranian artists that can take up the baton of those
like Haerizadeh who, in part, drove the late 2000s boom in recognition
and attention for Dubai’s art scene.
Names come and go and today it can become a little hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
think if you are more simple and honest in how you approach your work
then that’s more radical these days,” says Haerizadeh, as we look over
the works included in What Lies Beneath. He says that
Mahadavi’s tenderised torsos are an attempt to get at the
straightforward truth of things: the body rendered visceral without a
convoluted theoretical back story.
goes for Javad Azimi, a painter of lyrical, simplistic scenes – the sort
one might find daubed on the bowl of well-worn ceramics – as well as
demons’ heads wrought in riotous colour. He paints with his hands,
giving the works their roughness and pleasant imprecision. These bodies
of work have a slight outsider quality to them. Azimi
left Iran’s capital for the rural north-eastern city of Gorgan a year
ago, absorbing the Turkomen folk art found in that part of the country.
The vivid embroidery that exists there has seeped into his palette. The
unabashed way he compounds colour in his paintings of demons bears hints
of this tradition’s influence.
says this style has led to accusations of provincialism and a childish
style when Azimi has previously exhibited back home. “But he keeps doing
it. I like that idea of the artist having the breath of their
surroundings in their work,” he says.
these artists to stick to their guns, even if acclaim for their way of
working remains elusive, has been at the centre of putting this second
edition together. Haerizadeh is drawn to exactly their indecorousness,
their refusal to veer into the practice of painting by projector that
has become widespread among many young Iranian artists.
Raad, who has subtly but significantly developed on what he showed last
year, represents exactly this craft concern. A graphic designer of
repute, he has spent a lot of time also learning from the artisans who
weave and embroider tapestries in Iran.
result is a subversion of the black tapestries often paraded through
the streets of cities during the Ashura festival that mourns the death
of Imam Hossein. But scenes of playful mythos play across them here
instead.These tapestries could almost operate as mourning banners for
the narrowing of a tradition of embroidery to a purely religious
Craft surfaces in
other ways: Pouya Parsamagham is embroiled in cinema, having studied
with the likes of the Iranian master auteur Abbas Kiarostami. For What Lies Beneath,
Parsamagham has assembled a collection of moving images that almost
look like CCTV stills. Upon examination, these are actually scenes from
existing films and Parsamagham uses his camera to “chase” minor
characters who loiter in the background.
The success of What Lies Beneath,
and the six artists featured, remains to be seen once the show opens
next week. But Haerizadeh says that working with the group and a
multitude of voices has also had a positive effect on his own practice.
often, a curator has something in their mind and starts to find works
to illustrate that way of thinking,” he says. “I want to trace the
September 10 to October 10,
Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Al Quoz 1, St 8, #17, Alserkal Avenue,
Dubai; open Saturday-Thursday 10am-7pm; 04 323 0502, www.ivde.net