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Iranian Art Kicking Off in 2019

By Roxane Zand
The New Year is off to a good start for a number of Iranian artists showing both in London and in Switzerland.

I nternational recognition and success is vital to growth of regional art markets, and Iran is no exception. It is heartening for example, to see Mehdi Ghandyanloo’s work providing the visual background for the global discussions happening at the Davos Kongresszentrum, just as with Azadeh Ghotbi’s success at London’s Herrick Gallery, and Ab-Anbar’s representation of two prominent Iranian artists at artgeneve2019.

Azadeh Ghotbi, The Nature of Light
Azadeh Ghotbi, The Nature of Light

Close to home, Azadeh recently unveiled a series of enchanting photographs (”The Nature of Light”) which allude to the fleeting beauty within nature and are informed by her own view of mysticism. Taken this past summer in Norway, the photographs are a gentle and thoughtful exploration of transience: by slowing down a passing moment in time, long enough to reveal and magnify it, the artist invites us to observe and treasure that moment. She examines, with her characteristic touch, the alchemy and interplay between light, time, movement and space. The images are highly abstract, inviting interpretation and drawing in the viewer. Her delicate dialogue between pixels and brushstrokes remind us that Azadeh is fundamentally an artist and a painter whose eye has for now been diverted into photography. Whichever direction she practices, her work reflects an innate grace and deeply aesthetic visual sensibility.

Azadeh Ghotbi, The Nature of Light
Azadeh Ghotbi, The Nature of Light

With a very different approach to establishing a dialogue with the viewer, artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo has for long been captivating audiences through large scale public art in locations as diverse as London, Boston and Tehran’s city facades. Active in a wide range of mediums and far more than just a muralist, Mehdi’s strength lies in his perspectives and compositions, his trompe l’oeil and truthful deceptions. Last week a commissioned, monumental work on three canvasses called ‘Finding Hope’ was affixed to the walls of the World Economic Forum Congress Hall in Davos. The work was executed in Iran and shipped to Davos where 186 sq m of wall space in the main Atrium featured the artist’s heartfelt message of hope and of anxiety.

Photo of Mehdi Ghadyanloo working in his Tehran studio on his recent commission for the the World Economic Forum 2019 Annual Meeting in Davos
Mehdi Ghadyanloo working in his Tehran studio on his recent commission for the the World Economic Forum 2019 Annual Meeting in Davos

A father of small children himself and a Cultural Ambassador for the World Economic Forum, it comes as no surprise that Mehdi’s message to this influential gathering should be one of concern for the future generation. ‘Globalization 4.0, Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the 4th Industrial Revolution’ as Davos’s theme was called this time, highlighted Sir David Attenborough’s plea for saving the planet and its ecology, and Mehdi’s message seemed exactly on point – with three panels each featuring a little girl with her back turned, a balloon, and a threaded needle. The juxtaposition of these three eerily flawless images invoked many emotions: why do we not see the face of the girl? Could the needle, like a damoclean sword, prick the balloon at any moment? The first-glance serenity belies a deep anxiety, a malaise which is symptomatic of the current state of the world. Ghadyanloo is auctioning the smaller scale study on canvas for Finding Hope at the Made in Britain sale on 20 March. In keeping with the central message of the piece, 100% of the sale proceeds will be applied in support of The Lotus Flower non-profit NGO to further its mission of empowering women and girl refugees in Europe and the Middle East.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo, 'Finding Hope'. Commissioned for the World Economic Forum 2019 Annual Meeting in Davos
Mehdi Ghadyanloo, 'Finding Hope'. Commissioned for the World Economic Forum 2019 Annual Meeting in Davos

Not far away from Davos, Geneva is now hosting its own art fair where the ground-breaking Ab-Anbar Gallery is showing two prominent Iranian diaspora artists: YZ Kami and Timo Nasseri – the former a long-time New Yorker, and the latter a part-German artist based in Berlin. Each reflect their own legacies and sensibilities: Kami’s fluid, illusive portraits are both soft-focus and introverted; he ‘persuasively represents the unseen’, as Robert Storr has said, where the sitter averts his or her gaze and by doing so forces the hand of the viewer. Some have their eyes closed, leading us to their possible thoughts; others stir us with their alertness. Kami’s strongly figural series contrasts sharply with his work that is inspired and influenced by his Iranian heritage – the mosaic-work of domes in resplendent colourways have proved to be some of his most successful work.

Courtesy of Ab-Anbar Gallery. Photo by Nicola Morittu
Courtesy of Ab-Anbar Gallery. Photo by Nicola Morittu

Similarly, Timo Nasseri felt inspired to delve more deeply into his Islamic heritage after travelling to Iran with his father. Having started out as a photographer, then transitioning to sculptor, Nasseri brings a number of skills and perspectives to his work – from the magnificent, monumental mirrorwork sculptures to the more Naum Gabo-like, Bauhaus-influenced structures, Nasseri’s guiding light seems to be geometric influences. No doubt international audiences will appreciate the work of both these artists whose ability to carry their heritage and yet speak a universal language has awarded them a special place in the art scene.

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