It could be interesting to start our discussion by comparing two renowned Iranian painters of the contemporary era: Bahman Mohasses and Hossein Zenderoodi.

I do not think there is much doubt with regard to Bahman Mohasses’s creative talents and abilities as a painter. His paintings, for instance his depictions of minotaur, are extremely sober and solid, the result of artistic vision and powerful execution. It is not as if his works are duplications or imitations.

Art experts can probably recognize his works even if they don’t bear his signature; even non-professional audiences, including myself, will recognize and be reminded of Bahman Mohasses’ “world” just by looking at his works – his paintings and sculptures. Hossein Zenderoodi too is a celebrated painter of immense creativity, having created his own unique universe. But his world is different from that of Mohasses. In Zenderoodi paintings, one can find symbolisms and intimations that are familiar to us.

The letters, curvatures, and abstractions present in his works are all components of our visual memories which, in a novel sense, have been rethought and recreated in the form of his canvas paintings. Therefore, just as much as Mohasses’ works can seem exotic to Iranians unfamiliar with traditions of Western painting, Zenderoodi pieces might seem alien and exotic to a Westerner with no awareness of the symbolisms and intimations that shape his works. This exoticism and peculiarity are the appealing aspects of these works and a reminder of their ingenuity.

In the history of Iranian painting or, more precisely, in the history of the exposure of Iranian painters to modern Western art, Bahman Mohasses is a timeless figure of great importance; however, can his precious works find a place in the history of world art? The answer to this question seems to be negative, proven by the fact that this has not occurred thus far.

To a western observer, Mohasses’ works are a collection of admirable pieces the likes of which they have seen plenty. How about Zenderoodi’s works though? Even if it is not currently the case, his works, and the works of those like him, at least seem to have the potential to move forward on a path toward reaching such a status. In other words, one can envisage such art works making a name for themselves in the global art scene, thus gaining identity and status therein. This is what has practically been observed as well. Such identity and status is precisely rooted in the Iranian identity of such works, that same facet which is familiar to us and appealing to others. Whether we like it or not, the reality of society today and the historical situation of different cultures with regard to each other is such that, even if artistic movements and currents today do not emerge in the West, they are identified and evaluated there and then introduced to other parts of the world. For instance, this is the case with the art of China, India, and Japan which we came to know not through the Chinese, Indians, and Japanese themselves but through the West, from the distinction they find in the global art market, part of which is certainly based in the specific symbolisms and intimations of their identities.

It is in the United States, France, England, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain that marginal identities are brought into the mainstream, thus gaining status in the global art scene. Therefore, with regard to the comparison made in our introduction, it is not important whether Mohasses is more ‘Iranian’ or Zenderoodi, the latter having added “Charles” to the beginning of his name as well. The real issue is identifying and extracting sources of ethnic cultural identity and properly presenting them in the global scene.

Bahman Mohasses was a pioneer in Iran, and at best contemporary in the West. Hossein Zenderoodi is considered a traditionalist in Iran and a pioneer in the West. The era of Mohasses’ works was the contemporary period in the West, which we strived to reach, and the era of Zenderoodi’s works was Iran’s past in the form of a Western and (post)modern future.

Bahman Mohasses
Bahman Mohasses

The topic of this article is not a comparison of the two aforementioned artists; you can remove their names and replace them with any two other names that you deem appropriate. My objective is to demonstrate the complexity of a situation, the complexity of the state of “contemporary” art in cultures that are on the sidelines of modernity. In every period of human history, certain cultures have been more active, taking on the role of pioneers, while others have remained passive, thus historically distanced from the dominant culture.

In our era, for various social, economic, intellectual, and cultural reasons, modernist societies have provided a proper platform for science, thought and art to flourish and, in general, the history of each of these fields is mainly equal to their history in modernist societies. Other societies are on the sidelines of the main currents of science, thought, and art and are assessed in relation to the status quo in Western modernist societies.

Hossein Zendehroodi 1969
Hossein Zendehroodi 1969

This is a historical reality which cannot be influenced by our preferences and desires or be changed through wishful plans of action. We can consider the field of painting for example.

How can one claim to be familiar with the history of modern art, more specifically the history of Western painting, and not have understood that, for many years, new movements, currents, and activities have consistently been developed, established, challenged, and ultimately become classical there, thus giving their place to their “avant-garde” successors? And again, how can one be familiar with this history and not witness continuity between these developments and other such phenomena in those societies, namely intellectual, philosophical, scientific, cultural, social, economic, and political developments. There, artistic movements are part of the “organism” of modernist society, but, in neighboring societies, depending on their distance from modernity, this organism is weakened, while superficiality and importation grow.

Bahman Mohasses
Bahman Mohasses

This might even reach a point where an essential and meaningful concept in those societies can be rendered incomprehensible, redundant, and obsolete in these societies.

History and historiography provide us with this ability to present various comprehensible narratives of the organism of society and its changes and developments. Changes and developments are always assessed in relation to something else, an origin or an axis upon which our past and future are defined. On the sidelines of modernity, this origin is modernity itself and the cultures that possess it, with the changes and developments taking place marginally.

In this case, the organism falls apart and meaningful continuities give place to inevitable dissociations. And this is how misunderstanding is born. We can consider modernism in art as an example. One of the facets of modernist art, with its primitivism or abstraction or even in its absurdity, is the quest for spirituality, a notion that can be found clearly expressed in the writings and reflections of some artists who were part of this movement, such as in the distinct works of Kandinsky.

In a society like Iran, this same type of art becomes a component of modernity and a means to express interest in the modernist developments of the West, in other words a sign of being up to date and not marginalized. Even if certain artists were able to create works by understanding its true meaning, it possessed a different signification for the majority of audiences, one that is very different from what modernist Western audiences perceived. In contrast, the paintings of Kamal-ol-Molk and his pupils, which, by observing perspectives and penumbras to the best of the artist’s abilities, were duplications of the understanding and perception of the founders of modernity, are considered traditional and, based on our definition, “spiritual”.

Contemporary Iranian art has been developed within such a complexity, in the historical distance that separates pioneers of Western art from Iranian artists and their audiences.

The fate of modernity has varied, depending on the conditions of art forms in society. For instance, poetry is a deeply-rooted art form for Iranians and Nima Yooshij’s poetic innovations, though heavily influenced by the new world, were ultimately not imitations.

Despite the efforts of traditionalists, his poetry was well-received by the public and ‘Nimayi’, and even ‘Sepid’, poesy became comprehensible forms which appealed to audiences. Prominent poets of this movement, such as Foroogh Farrokhzad, Ahmad Shamloo, Mehdi Akhavan Sales, and Sohrab Sepehri, became contemporary and ‘new poetry’ gained such a status that older forms like the ‘ghazal’ had no choice but to accept the novel ‘Nimayi’ perspective in order to continue competing for timelessness and contemporization. On the other hand, story writing, for example, was not as deeply rooted and thus was not taken seriously as an art form. Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh’s short stories paved the way, for people already had a perception of parables; but the serious focus on modern fictional literature that Sadegh Hedayat sought to establish was initially difficult to understand, leading to misunderstandings which still exist to some extent today.

The novel, more specifically, came to life with the new world, representing a novel understanding and perception of our world.

Therefore, despite the presence of great novelists such as Ahmad Mahmood and Mahmood Dolatabadi, we still have not had novels as successful as our contemporary poetry, with the two most internationally-acclaimed books of our contemporary fictional literature, namely ‘The Blind Owl’ and “Savushun”, being, in terms of form and perspective, a combination of poetry and prose and one of novelism and mythical literature respectively. By bearing in mind the status of literature, one can better comprehend the difficult conditions of visual arts.

Jalil Ziapoor is commonly considered the first person to have made efforts to introduce modern painting to Iranians. A member of the editorial team of ‘Fighting Cock’ magazine, he brought Cubism to Iran and not only introduced us to modern painting, but was an artist who strived to create a bond between his knowledge of world art and Iranian artistic traditions. Ziapoor was a painter who made the square-shaped tilings familiar to us the basis of his modern works. A glance at his activities demonstrates how greatly active he was in presenting modern art to Iranians.  But is he as well known to Iranians today as he deserves to be? Not just himself personally, but more specifically his vision and his art. I doubt that anyone can answer affirmatively. He accomplished in his field what Nima and Hedayat had done in their respective fields as well (acknowledging new art and linking it to the heritage of the past) but he neither found Nima’s rather rapid and emphatic success nor Hedayat’s late but enduring triumph.

Mahmoud Farshchian
Mahmoud Farshchian
Morteza Katouzian (In Memory of Parvin Etesami)
Morteza Katouzian (In Memory of Parvin Etesami)

A work of art does not become so in a vacuum. “Special conditions” for artistic existence must be met for a work to be considered art. These conditions have existed much less for painting. In our people’s visual memory, we are more familiar with carpet and gabbeh patterns or with the tiling designs of domes and mihrabs in mosques, but much less so with regard to the art of painting or sculpting. For instance, what we consider as the history of painting prior to Westernization generally consists of miniatures found in precious books to which most people did not have access; therefore, it does not have a bold presence in people’s visual memory. One must also not overlook the impact of religious prohibition or at least condemnation with regard to painting and sculpting in Islamic tradition. Nevertheless, calligraphy is a rather familiar or even somehow sacred form of art for Iranians, practically limiting the space for painting to exist. One can compare this experience with that of poetry, for example, in order to better understand the difference in conditions.

Parviz Tanavoli The Family of Poet II - 1971
Parviz Tanavoli The Family of Poet II – 1971
Parviz Kalantari Panorama - 2009
Parviz Kalantari Panorama – 2009

The more important issue here is that if those who purchased the limited number of visual artworks created in the past were rulers and aristocrats, new audiences were different. One part of this audience is made up of art buyers who, even if present in Iran, were naturally either not adequate in number or as knowledgeable as the artists, thus rendering them incapable of properly defending innovation. An even more significant point is that one must not consider audiences of visual arts to be necessarily limited to buyers. Followers of visual artworks are all those who view them and follow their evolution, thus forming a collection of individuals that encompasses more than just art buyers. In Iran, due to the fact that the culture needed to understand these arts was not prevalent, not only were there few buyers, but there were not many such followers of art either. In addition, critics are the ones who link such audiences with art works and create the collection of writings that form or facilitate mutual discourse and signification between works and their audiences; these are critics who occasionally appear in the form of art historians, displaying their evolution and blessing them with meaning. To what extent have these conditions been provided for painting in our country? These shortcomings and therefore non-existence of “conditions for the creation of visual arts” can be observed even more clearly when we compare them to analogous circumstances in the modernist West. We should also not forget the previously-mentioned principal issue of gaining more widespread audiences, which has been experienced differently in contemporary Iranian art in comparison with the West. In such conditions, what courses of action have our artists had to choose from?

Another solution would be to disregard the thought of being contemporary. If classical art will perpetually have admirers whereas being contemporary always carries troubles of its own, like those mentioned above, why should one not opt for this approach? Especially when we consider the fact that, thanks to Kamal-ol-Molk’s legacy, classical works have become traditional in Iranian painting, with art buyers and audiences alike praising their realism and the artist’s ability to represent reality. With this approach, style and technique is clearly defined. If differences do exist (apart from quality of execution), they are found in the concepts depicted. One can draw still life or moving landscape beyond time and space. One can preserve the nostalgia of ancient Iran by repeating the subjects of paintings of the past. By taking a slightly bigger risk, one can even create more modern images that bear signs of their time, while remaining unchanged in terms of form. The prerequisite for this approach is having the ability to create masterful paintings, with primarily Iranian themes, in which the decorative aspect bears greater significance. The works of Abbas Katoozian can be considered as prominent examples of such paintings, as masterfully impressive as the qasidas of Mohammad-Taqi Bahar or the poems of Parvin Etesami, while remaining in the past, with no link to art’s evolving history, and lacking the potential to foster movement, innovation, and growth.

Bahman Jalali - 2002
Bahman Jalali – 2002

The third approach is to repeat and recreate the world that one would expect from an Iranian artist, i.e. reproducing a tradition that has followers and of course a market. If Persian miniatures form our illustrative past, we can recreate this past in such a way that Iranian audiences can gain a sense of identity and personality while Western observers can also be drawn towards a less familiar phenomenon of great appeal. Nevertheless, this approach has its own constraints, one being the fact that it is void of the colorfulness of daily realities, including the notion of time. In spite of this, one thing that can be said of this approach, as with the previous one, is that one cannot create works of art without effort and skill, which is not necessarily the case with certain (seemingly) modern works. Mahmood Farshchian’s intricate miniatures are good examples of works following this approach; such works will always have an audience, with the only problem being that they are not contemporary art but rather the result of masterful craftsmanship – they are beautiful but not challenging, not reflecting the contemplations, questions, and concerns of their time (or maybe incapable of such reflection because of the imaginary world in which they are created, one that is beyond time and space). It possesses a rigid character which seems exotic and nostalgic to Western viewers while blessing us Iranians with identity and a source of confidence and pride. This is while we neglect the fact that this type of art was alive and vibrant in its own time, experiencing interaction and fusion, albeit at a slow pace. Tradition becomes rigid only when it is dies; while alive, it flows from one new experience to the next.

Ardeshir Mohasses
Ardeshir Mohasses

The final solution is to strive to create works that express themselves in a manner suited to their time, thus seeming contemporary, while also possessing traditional Iranian elements; these artworks would appear distinctive compared to Western examples, manifesting signs of the true space in which they were created, on the margins of modernity. These would be works that would be the continuation of a tradition, or a fusion of traditions, in the true sense of the word, not just the promotion or imitation of a static interpretation of one specific one. This is the approach that most artists in neighboring societies had to choose, as was the case with Iranian artists as well. They worked to create art that was modern while also remaining local: modern Iranian art. The use of local present-day elements in artworks, or more specifically the representation of these elements, can have different aspects, and Iranian artists have experimented with them all. The first that naturally comes to mind is the representation of Iranian content, from the daily lives of nomads and villagers to urban life that possesses historical elements of contemporary Iran. Another aspect could be the use of familiar materials as tools for creation, with one famous example being the use of clay and straw plaster. Another could be the conception of a familiar but ancient imaginary world, with the help of the expressive capacities of modern art; another, the use of traditional Iranian illustrative techniques in a modern framework. Last but not least would be the inclusion or, in better terms, evocation of references to our historical background and visual memory in the work, from calligraphy, Persian miniatures, tilings, teahouse paintings, and works of lithography to the inscription of prayers and the locks of the ‘Saqqa-khaneh’ movement; from the representation of religious heroes and our poetic literature to the use of stoneware crocks and ‘sangak’ bread as elements of a form of Iranian pop art. Almost all of our great modern artists have, each in their own way, stepped foot on this path, with those who haven’t attracting less attention beyond Iran’s borders. This movement of return to tradition reached its peak at the height of the period of intellectual self-discovery in Iranian history, characterized by the thoughts of Jalal Ale Ahmad, Ehsan Naraghi, and Darioosh Shaygan and those of traditionalists such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr. What resulted from this intellectual coordination is the only true current that bears the emblem of modern Iranian art: the ‘Saqqa-khaneh’ movement. With social and intellectual developments and as those previous perceptions have faded, these artistic references have become more delicate and discrete, sometimes even reaching a point where we clearly witness nostalgic representations full of admiration giving their place to derisive representations that aim to express opposition. In fact, one could say that this approach has, within itself, sometimes moved from one stage to another, with the value system behind it also changing. Nevertheless, its essence has remained the same and it is still the most significant experience of modern art in Iran, giving rise to the urns of Mahmood Javadipoor, the imaginary world of Ahmad Esfandiari, the calligraphy paintings of Mohammad Ehsaei, Faramarz Pilaram, and Nasrollah Afjei, the calligraphy-filled paintings of Hossein Zenderoodi and Sadegh Tabrizi, the sculptures of Parviz Tanavoli, Jazeh Tabatabaei, and Mash Esmaeil, the designs of Ghobad Shiva, the cartoons of Ardeshir Mohasses, the love, fresh pomegranate juice, and flying carpet of Farhad Moshiri, the miniaturized, illuminated Mona Lisa of Farah Osooli, the clay and soil works of Parviz Kalantari and Gholamhossein Nami, the works of Marco Grigorian and Fereydoon Ave, from the noticeable influences of Nasser Oveisi, Mansoor Ghandriz, and Mohammad Ali Taraghijah to the less obvious ones of Mansooreh Hosseini, Sadegh Barirani, Koorosh Shishehgaran, and Nosratollah Moslemian, from the nostalgic photography of Bahman Jalali to the contradiction-filled shots of Shadi Ghadirian, from the tangible photos of Kaveh Golestan to the mischievous images of Hassan Sarbakhshian, from the works of Shirin Neshat and Sadegh Tirafkan to the wood-carved skull of Andisheh Avini and the cuneiform-covered ewer of Behdad Lahooti, and even interpretable delicate works such as Ghazaleh Hedayat’s ‘The Sound of My Hair’.

Sadegh Tirafkan - Iranian Man - 2000
Sadegh Tirafkan – Iranian Man – 2000

Some critics often find the choice of this approach to be imprudent, believing that one reason it is chosen is that the work is thus made appealing to Western audiences. However, with the explanations I provided in the beginning of this article, it will have become clear that this approach – which was obviously not chosen consciously but rather born from the artist’s subconscious mind – was the only way to create art that would be Iranian and would still have the capacity to be seen throughout the world. Therefore, it was both inevitable and rational, the extent depending on the historical circumstances. This is proven by the fact that contemporary Iranian art is nothing but this same collection of precious and memorable works which were developed through this approach.

But is this the end of the road for visual arts in Iran? Perhaps not. One can envisage a situation in which our visual arts move past the stage of explicitly retelling and representing elements of identity and tradition while still remaining both local and global. As I will state in the following paragraphs, the current state of our visual arts is actually such that this can be expected.

Shirin Neshat - Women of Allah
Shirin Neshat – Women of Allah

Let me begin by providing a brief explanation about Iranian cinema, cinema that possesses purely Iranian elements familiar to all of us on one hand while achieving undeniable global success on the other. Although cinema is a rather new form of art, thus not allowing us to speak of local cinematic tradition, artistic cinema (or even one that is non-artistic) always bears signs of the environment in which it was created, having an identity that distinguishes it from other forms. The popular cinema – known as ‘Film Farsi’ – and intellectual cinema of Iran both attest to the existence of this relation. Naturally, with regard to serious Iranian cinema, there has been concern about being ‘art’ while also being contemporary and global (in the sense that they should have the capacity to be seen in the world), thus obliging filmmakers to choose a specific approach as well. Their choice has also more or less been the fourth alternative I mentioned. Most important works of Iranian cinema have been created in line with that final approach, meaning that they also served to represent Iranian elements (and if they did not, they were not of great appeal). Some would look to create a sort of Iranian cinema, while those who were not necessarily preoccupied with national cinema would correctly make use of our historical, social, and intellectual concerns as the basis for their works. Ali Hatami, Bahram Bayzaei, Nasser Taghvaei, Masood Kimiayi, Rakhshan Bani Etemad, and Darioosh Mehrjooyi were among those who stepped foot on this path, each in their own special way.

Nevertheless, one might be able to provide examples of works in Iranian cinema that have moved even beyond this stage, gaining a new level of success. In my opinion, the cinema of Abbas Kiarostami is a good example of such transcendence. It is true that, in some of Kiarostami’s movies, rural Iranian spaces have been portrayed in an “exotic” manner, but his movies are not constructed on the basis of these spaces, or in other words, Iranian villages are not inseparable parts of his works. The signature of his cinema is found in their pure form, one that stems from a personal worldview. This form has its own special features, such as roads and movement and even the anti-cinematic nature of many sequences; most important of all though, in my view, is the director’s perspective which is void of excitement, a point that can be observed not only in the general feel of the film but also in the way the director develops his characters and stories. This is the signature of Kiarostami’s cinema, found in almost all of his important works. If we consider routes, roads, and movement from one point to another as essential components of his movies, this is because we observe them not only in ‘Where is the Friend’s Home?’ and ‘Life, and Nothing More’, but also in ‘Certified Copy’ and the episode he directed in ‘Tickets’. If perspective void of excitement is an inseparable part of his world, we can view this in every single one of his films, even in a work like ‘First Case, Second Case’. In Kiarostami’s movies, even if Iran is not the geographical location in which the movie is made, it is clear that Iran is where his mindset is formed; therefore, a film like ‘Certified Copy’, which lacks any seemingly Iranian elements, is, due to its view toward love, gender, authenticity, and repetition, as Iranian and local and current as ‘Through the Olive Trees’ and ‘The Wind Will Carry Us’, and these movies as universal as his more recent films or the films of other non-Western directors. We can take ‘Shirin’ for instance; it is an anti-cinematic creation whose ingenuity is in the idea (watching the audience and not the film), an idea which could have been developed by any other artist who had come up with it. However, even if we ignore the oral retelling of the story of ‘Khosrow and Shirin’, the movie is Iranian to such an extent that we are reminded of a time in Iranian cinema when close-ups of actresses were frowned upon, with the director having to justify such takes, but then we see how the artist has cleverly made a movie which is fully made up of close-up shots of actresses, with each scene having its own plausible justification. My objective isn’t to discuss Kiarostami’s cinema; the points I mentioned aim to remind you that the current state of visual arts is not necessarily their ultimate resting place, for they can one day reach a stage where identity is no longer an explicitly fundamental feature in Iranian works, but rather an element subconsciously woven into the work in a more detailed and delicate manner.

Behdad Lahouti - Untitled from the Chahanchah Series - 2010
Behdad Lahouti – Untitled from the Chahanchah Series – 2010

The reality is that different conditions have existed whose provision has led to the success of Iranian cinema, conditions that were less available for other forms of art. Not many countries have had the dynamic and vibrant cinema we have, and many still do not, and their film industry is completely in the hands of other countries. In Iran, cinema has a good domestic market and private and public investment is common, thus creating reasonable turnover. After the Islamic Revolution, artistic cinema was supported and strengthened in certain periods, with audiences lining up to purchase tickets for the screening of movies from directors such as Tarkovsky. In addition to the presence of general Iranian audiences and more specific foreign audiences in festivals, there are enduring cinematic publications and professional critics who appeared from within this vibrancy. We must also mention the absence of previous expectations, for cinema is a rather novel form of art and, in countries with ancient traditions, it is difficult to lead innovation in areas which have their own past. Last but not least, we must not neglect the fact that cinema, due to the existence of a common technical language (image and editing), possesses the ability to be viewed on a global scale.

Amin Roshan - Naftoon from the Jikak Crown Series - 2011
Amin Roshan – Naftoon from the Jikak Crown Series – 2011

Therefore, if our literary works (poems, stories, plays) have not succeeded in finding their way into world literature, one must surely also consider the importance of the element of language, though this is certainly not the only influential factor. For instance, one cannot overlook the lack of seriousness in the creation of fictional prose and storytelling in our traditions (from Samake Ayyar to Hossein Kord Shabestari and Amir Arsalan) compared to the depth of our poetry and its recital throughout history. In addition, modern fiction is basically a form of professional activity in the world today, thus requiring time and experience on a full-time basis, but these conditions have not existed, and still do not exist, for practically any of our serious authors. Most importantly, novel writing is based on a form of modern worldview, one which has not yet found a deserving status in our society; even if an artist does possess this vision, his/her readers cannot accept it, for this is a worldview based on individualism and the authenticity of personal experience and, as a result, multiplicity and relativity of discourse. In conclusion, we have not possessed any of the conditions required for our works of fiction to flourish on a global scale.

If we look at the conditions available for Iranian cinema which did not exist in the case of theater or works of fiction, we might find hope that our visual arts will also gradually move past the stage of utilizing elements of identity as exotic components while also maintaining their global audiences. In other words, they will be able to move beyond their current state and what they have achieved so far, in part due to their simultaneity with post-modernism, and start a new chapter in Iranian art. It seems that, in comparison with other forms of art, conditions for the evolution of visual arts have been met: 1) the language of visual arts is one that is global 2) statistics show that the number of art students, artists, galleries, and art enthusiasts has significantly grown 3) Iranian visual arts have, in recent years, found a place for themselves in the global art scene 4) thanks to the overture of international markets to the works of certain Iranian artists, some have found the ability to create professional works while maintaining an economic advantage for themselves 5) parallel to this growth, related publications have also considerably developed and the number of professional critics and experts has also gradually risen 6) the final point is that the intellectual atmosphere within Iran, which, following the Islamic Revolution, had been disrupted in relation to visual arts, is currently changing, with the result being that, compared to the past two or three decades, visual arts are now more commonly considered as progressive, mainstream forms of art. This all does not however guarantee anything, but it can provide some hope for a future in which, as a nation living on the sidelines of globalization, our visual arts will focus less on presenting manufactured images of identity and tradition and more on taking the form of our artists’ perspectives in creating dialogue with the people of the world.

Aydin Aghdashloo - Memories of Destruction Sand Storm - 1980
Aydin Aghdashloo Memories of Destruction, Sand Storm – 1980

Aydin Aghdashloo has a beautiful collection of paintings that I particularly enjoy: paintings that represent memories of the destruction of our ancient world. In these works, we witness the end of a world. For me, the most interesting pieces are those that depict an event, like an ancient bowl shattering. In my opinion, one of the beautiful aspects of these works is that, despite the movement that should be inherent to these events, we practically see no movement at all. It seems as if the painter has masterfully stopped time, or that he has represented time that is halted. This frozen state of time is surely a result of a heavy emotional blow that we have been dealt by witnessing this incident, the shock of coming face to face with our new situation. We have understood and imagined this experience. Now it is time to move past this state of shock and accept the existing reality, thus allowing time and movement to return to our perspective.