A Postcard from Persia

Galerie Huit is delighted to present the exhibition A Postcard from Persia, bringing together works by five emerging to mid-career Iranian contemporary artists, Ali Esmaeilipour, Darvish Fakhr, Jamshid Haghighat Shenas, Farsad Labbauf and Mohsen Jamalinik, who are based in four cities around the globe: Brighton, New York, Singapore and Tehran.

  • Exhibition Period: 16 June – 5 August 2015

The exhibition represents an Iran viewed through the artists’ individual perceptions of their native land, and draws from their personal experiences and observations of Iranian society, where religious beliefs and traditional values are deeply embedded in the country’s identity.The delicately drawn allegorical images by Jamshid Haghighat Shenas and the contemporary still life paintings of Ali Esmaeilipour point to two different worlds, one notional, and the other more familiar. The paintings recall 17th Century Northern European still lives where geometric shapes, measuring devices, and esoterica such as skulls were depicted, and symbolised Mankind’s pursuit of knowledge, his mortality and place in the Universe. Haghighat Shena’s images of a tetrahedon, a cube and a bicycle with square wheels, seem to contemplate both the probable and improbable. Esmaeilipour’s handmade ornaments against a backdrop of intricately embroidered fabrics reference Persia’s rich cultural heritage. Darvish Fakhr’s painterly realistic portraits of local individuals carrying out mundane tasks capture daily life in Tehran. In Ripped Khanoom, the torn streaks across the canvas mimic a public notice board where previous messages have been removed in haphazard fashion. Behind the neglected facade, the enigmatic gaze of a woman suggests a personal story that is as multi-layered as the surface depicted. Other paintings such as Tehran Graffiti recreate local graffiti depicting familiar emblems of war and posters of past rulers and in counterpoint, Tamiz portrays a portly older woman determinedly scrubbing a vandalised wall. The paintings have been made through a process of building up then removing layers, visually referencing the layers of time the artist felt, when in front of the walls in Iran, and of the culture altogether.

Inspired by Persian calligraphy, Farsad Labbauf’s large linear figurative paintings depict the common youth, a symbol of the next generation. The reduced outline that delineates a body in possibly army fatigues, gradually focuses one’s attention on the dense concentration of contours and colours that together form a face of a male adolescent – it is not simply a portrait of an Iranian youth but of Iran itself. In contrast to both Fakhr’s and Labbauf’s portraits that reflect objectively on Iranian life, informed by their visits to the country, Esmaeilipour’s mixed media self-portraits communicate his personal journey as a foreigner; residing in Singapore for the past 15 years, the artist’s assemblages gather together tokens, magazines and photographs that he has kept over the years, and thus form an overall picture of life as an expatriate. Here, the provocative cracked surfaces of Eve, Adam and Apple and Calm are reconciled with Fakhr’s multi-layered portraits. Perhaps such visible and psychological strata proffered by both artists reflect upon Iran’s complex identity and the view of it from outside.In contrast to the contemporary realism portrayed in the works by Labbauf, Fakhr, Esmaeilipour and Haghighat Shenas, Mohsen Jamalinik’s playful murals take us on a reminiscent journey through ancient Persia, depicting the traditional Iranian iconography of calligraphy, vessels, flora and fauna. Such imagery serves as a reminder that Iran is home to one of the World’s great civilisations, and in the current climate of global conflict and change, its deeply rooted traditions and belief systems will endure.