The artist is alive in his or her work
By Mohammad Memarian*
There is something peculiar about art: while being human-made, it survives turbulences in collective human life and helps people get through tough times. “That may have something to do with the fact that art, sometimes subconsciously, reflects the deepest treasures of the human psyche,” says Behdad Najafi Asadollahi, painter and gallery manager in Tehran. “The deeper it goes, the more original it becomes.”
Born in 1971, he has a doctorate in business administration, which helps him with the commercial side of the art industry. “Now that COVID preventive measures are relatively relaxed, we expect art events to quickly return to their pre-COVID vitality,” he told me in a short talk on the occasion of a new group exhibition in Ragadid gallery in Enghelab Cultural and Sports Complex, Tehran, which will be open to the public from January 17 until January 30, 2020. “We actually anticipate a good attendance. In fact, we decided to premiere it in the middle of the week to avoid a crowded opening,” he said.
* Mohammad Memarian is a staff writer at Iran Daily.
How did you get into arts?
My mother is a sculptor and owner of an anthropological museum in Nowshahr, northern Iran. And my father had a screen printing factory. Therefore, I’ve grown up in an artistically creative environment since I remember.
How did you become a professional artist?
I have a dozen years of experience in painting. Since some four years ago, I became more focused on painting, and it has been my primary profession for the last couple of years.
So, the beginning of your professional art activity coincided with the pandemic, right?
Lucky me! But things are getting better. Since last march, I have organized more than 10 group exhibitions of paintings and attended several more.
Tell us about your upcoming event: The artists and their pieces.
In this exhibition, we showcase 45 paintings and 5 sculptures from 50 artists. They are between 35 to 75 years old, and include 36 male and 14 female artists, each with at least about 20 years of experience.
Is this gallery a for-profit venture?
The investor is a private sector holding, but it doesn’t seek return on investment. They only hope that it would break even. You see, each piece has a fixed price for sale, predetermined by our art experts in consultation with the artist. The price range is from 250 to 2,500 US$ in this exhibition, and we would receive a commission on their sales. They are all good works by renowned artists.
Speaking of renowned artists, do you really care about the brand name of an artist?
I can’t afford not to care about it! And that’s applicable to almost any business. But I must admit something: I’ve been trained in management, and if I like a brand, I somehow subconsciously like the work as well.
Even on personal level?
Ok, to choose an item for exhibition in my gallery is one thing, and to choose an item to hang in my house is another story. In the latter case, I care about the character of the artist, but not their brand name.
Then, you don’t seem to believe in the death of the author theory!
Nope, the author is pretty much alive in his or her work, while enlivened by it on another level! You know, an expert eye can even see the intensity of brush strokes on the canvas and discern how professional had been the artist who applied the strokes. Quite like in sports, where it’s clear if the player is an authority of the field or a newcomer.
So you interpret the work with regards to the author. Let’s take it the other way around. Without knowing the author, I wonder, what characteristics of a painter can you infer from the painting?
Almost nothing. If pressed, perhaps, in some certain cases, I would care to make a guess about the gender of the artist. And that’s all. For example in a painting here, subtle treatment of often overlooked details of a female body suggest that it might be a female artist.
Or a very astute male observer!
OK, I take that only back!
Tell us about the styles or schools of arts displayed in this exhibition.
For many of today’s artworks, it’s actually difficult to pinpoint a certain source of inspiration because the lines between the artistic movements are blurred and they are overlapping. In one single painting, a critique may find several elements, each of which owing to realist, expressionist, impressionist, or abstract traditions.
Does it pay to be a painter?
In any line of work, if you put in enough effort and passion, you will be successful. Actually, there are now Iranian painters with long waiting lists for their next works of art to come out.
But it seems that art could only be a preoccupation of the middle and upper classes.
All people can experience art and express themselves artistically. But I generally agree with your premise. And there might be a business explanation for it: Across globe, there is a surplus supply of artworks. That makes it difficult to generate a revenue, as it takes a good amount of time and patience to earn a decent income. And perhaps only the relatively privileged can afford to invest that amount of time and patience.
The Feminine Spirit by Saeideh Arian, born in 1986
Repetition is the common denominator of the feminine life: repetition of occupations, relationships, responsibilities and motherhood. Ingrained with personal creativity, it breathes color into life. Repeating the motifs derived from tradition, culture and Suzandozi (needlework) of the Iranian ethnicities, ‘The Feminine Spirit’ artwork pays homage to the women of my land who tie repetition to color and creativity in order to create a new work each and every time.
The Blind Shepherd by Javad Nobahar, born in 1966
There’s an order in the rhythm, a peace in watching the herd, and a harmony between the shepherd and his cattle that turn this take on a scene into a new outlook toward reality. In my paintings, creatures are combined from anew. The colorful grays and the simple backdrop erase any sign of time and space from the mind. Order, peace and silence can be hopefully drawn from every element of the painting.
Scarecrow by Behnam Valadvand, born in 1977
My Scarecrows are the manifestation of humans who have been transmuted from a state to another on their way to evolve themselves… from darkness to the light, from the depths to the zenith. It’s the hidden layers of humanity that we must all face, lest we happen to be ignorant of a part of ourselves. To soar is to dream of immortality, attainable just by breaking away from this wooden
The Bulls by Parviz Moazez, born in 1971
This is a more abstract rendition of a bull that is in keeping with my
previous paintings. I enjoy sharp and stirring elements, hence my desire to make use of many lines and other forms that conjure up sharp images. This is specifically embodied in the horns of the bull. I’ve done figurative works
before but now I’m once again returning to paintings that are both figurative and have hints of sharpness and onset.
Peace by Hamid Jafari Shakib, born in 1979
As the symbol of peace and friendship, the bird is depicted symbolically in this work. It now bears a resemblance to the figure of a totem, and its floral backdrop calls into mind a heavenly space. The overall structure of the work is inspired by the Persian Miniature as well, and the encompassing letters are a free-form and formalistic adaptation of texts that are so common in the