A Review of Ali Banisadr's Show09 Nov 2021
Original text in Farsi by Shamim Sabzevari
Translated to English by Laleh Khabbazi
These Specks of Dust
The solo show of Ali Banisadr was held from May 6 to June 26, 2021, at Kasmin Gallery, New York. The show consisted of nine recent paintings by the artist, several of which were critically acclaimed. However, one of the highlights of this event was the exhibition of a new large-scale diptych, the first multi-panel work by Banisadr in six years. Referring to varied artistic and historical resources, the show was entitled "These Specks of Dust" as an homage to the "Los Caprichos" series by the great 18th-century artist Francisco Goya. Ali Banisadr has used deeply personal symbolism to depict and explain his inner visions and ideas as usual.
The narrative begins with the title of the exhibition. Everything, like the light and suspended specks of dust, is floating freely. No word can so accurately and simply describe the overall atmosphere of Banisadr's paintings. Signs of humanity, hybrid creatures, and objects related to everyday life are evident In his paintings. Yet everything on the surface, every form simultaneously evoking the feeling of existence and absence, seems light and suspended. Similar to hollow masses with only an outer appearance. In these paintings, the micro and the macro intertwine with one another and cannot be independently identified. The contours of each visual form are merged into one another or perhaps have been deconstructed. It symbolizes the world filled with continuity, but the continuity among phenomena constantly struggling with deconstruction, absurdity, and death.
This vivid and turbulent atmosphere filled with strange and amorphous creatures is reminiscent of mythical war scenes and apocalyptic stories. Where the forces of good and evil fight with each other until one group wins the right to live on earth or proves its rightfulness, power, and ability. Perhaps, these all are rooted in Banisadr's recollection of the Iraq-Iran war or what has been etched in his memory regarding this dreadful event. The notion of the memory, both personal and collective, and even narrative and fictional, emerges prominently in the paintings. Banisadr entwined mythical time and historical experience together, and that is why his works are an evocation of fantasies, myths, and stories. It is as if he questions all notions and beliefs concerning the progress of the modern world and illustrates the ancient and mythical poems such as Sumerian Gilgamesh and The Greek Odyssey, and goes to Dante's Inferno and narrates the fight of divine and evil forces at the end of the world. As the artist has stated:
"I am fascinated by this encyclopedic gathering of fragments of knowledge and weaving them together to create a visionary world."
Aside from mythical stories, the essence of these narratives endures in contemporary life and our imaginations of the future. Banisadr's work narrates our increasingly technological world as well. These atypical forms simulate digital images, as there has been an error in their information loading process. These turbulent masses narrate perhaps the human condition in the contemporary world; the human who is responsible for war and destruction and is bewildered in this world. In their essence, Banisadr's works embody absurdism and existentialism. "These Specks of Dust" abounds in symbolism spanning ancient and contemporary cultures. The "Red," a painting completed in March 2020, features an ominous blue moon adorning a red sky- a premonition of unrest and anxiety to come; yet everything will be revealed. In the "Caravan", the dynamic brushstroke is replaced with a lack of mobility and increasing pressure. The prominent visualization of this immobility is, perhaps, the wheel caught in stasis, taking the central point of the canvas. The appearance of the wheel - one of the few signs of reality in this ambiguous world - is meaningful and interesting.
"The Healers" depict semi-abstract figures with limb-like tentacles grouped together. The title recalls the effort to resolve unrest with the advent of a savior aiming to restore equilibrium, happiness, and peace to a sick disrupted society. "Only Breath", completed in 2021, narrates a tense atmosphere evoking the corona pandemic. An issue that has affected people all around the world and in addition to physical effects, has limited human relations. The vertical and horizontal lines that cross each other are perhaps the metaphorical prison where human beings are currently trapped.
The "Messenger", a large-scale diptych completed in 2021, 72×160 inches, forms the centerpiece of the exhibition. The painting is unique and dynamic and is the first diptych of Banisadr in these six years. Despite the silver color and blue highlights dominating the painting, the atmosphere is mysterious; unlike many other paintings of Banisadr, there is no space between the bottom and the top. Uncanny creatures are scattered with intense tension between figuration and abstraction all over the surface as if they are flying. Many visual elements have faded, and some have been stretched in the space or disappeared with only the faintest trace left behind as if a storm swept everything over or scattered the specks of dust in the air and blurred the transparent forms- like a dream that extends or a memory that has been gone for a long time.
Ali Banisadr is an artist who creates his own world and lives in it. In this world, everything is both in its place and out of its place. He rules this world and knows how to establish order, synchronous to disorder.