"My Fantasy Land"; A Review of Arsia Moghaddam's Solo Show at Homa Art Gallery14 Sep 2022
Original text in Farsi by Pegah Rajamand
Translated to English by Omid Armat
"My Fantasy Land" solo exhibition by Arsia Moghaddam was hosted by Homa Art Gallery from May 6 to 23, 2022. These works, produced in 2021 and 2022, are created with materials such as acrylic, pencil, and marker and executed on different sizes of canvases.
Arsia Moghaddam (b. 1972, Tehran) has been occupied with painting for about two decades. His series of works have been displayed with different, unique titles like "Ardeshir and Cinderella", "The Pink Lion and Mona Lisa", and "The Sentimental and Moghaddam's Memories" in the most famous galleries of Tehran. Based on such titles, we may expect to see a combination of familiar visual elements and characters in his works.
Using Iranian and Western forms, Moghaddam invites the audience of his recent show to visit paintings called "My Fantasy Land." In an overall look and based on the title of the works, the show mostly displays images of urban landscapes. Meanwhile, the bazaar, houses, ships, and parks present places that the artist calls "peep show." The surfaces of Arsia Moghaddam's works are covered with confused and interwoven stains that reveal their identity as we get closer to the works. Looking at them from a distance, they appear similar to Expressionistic paintings in which the artist vents their excitement and feelings and uses pure, lively colors to convey a sense of euphoria. This is like looking at a city from a specific point of view or through a fish-eye lens, making it possible to identify every corner of the city. Therefore, besides the place and its properties, time, people, their acts, and clothes assume importance. These works require attention to the whole image and its detail simultaneously. Women, men, and cars are as noteworthy as stores, houses, gardens, and trees. Besides the arrangement of forms, such a level of importance may result from the pure colors that produce a dynamic effect while balanced in the spatial divisions on the works' surfaces. Although the smooth quality of lines and surfaces in Moghaddam's works does not lead to the representation of reality, it is influenced by the properties of its time and turns the outer world's events into imaginary, happening events by creating a new world.
One of the works, titled "The Bald, The Beautiful, The Bazaar," is reminiscent of Iranian bazaars and their features in different cities. Light is channeled into the bazaar through the arcs, and the shops' fronts refer to the current atmosphere with Persian scripts written on them. Such an Iranian place, along with its Persian scripts, creates a sense of intimacy as if the artist intends to emphasize more direct contact with his audience. This way, he gathers the viewer together with the entanglement of bazaar and its people under the same roof.
Some narrating aspects can be concluded based on the processing method and titles of works, such as "The Ship and Good People," "A Couple in the Park," or "At the Bakery"; just as a house is depicted with all its details and the party being held in it in a painting titled "A Party in the Mansion." The reflection of light in the turquoise pool and the blue-grey color of the sky refer to an emphasis on time. The discernable movement in the image, the placement of figures in and out of the house, and the green gardens in the yard all express the narrative of a party night. We can even guess the painter's position and distance from the scene.
The standpoint and divergent distances display the mansion's different spots regardless of atmospheric effects. Besides the familiarity of time and place in these paintings, the varying scales help the scenes become more believable as the far and close spots carry physical meanings. Moreover, although the artist has constantly avoided using the horizon line, he has revealed the importance of the land and the sky in his recent works more than before; just like the dimensions of a lake in the middle of a park allow the viewer to understand other parts of the scene. By controlling the aggregation and dispersion in these works, the artist has established more profound communication with the audience by holding them in front of the paintings.
What makes the city, the bazaar, and its stores in Moghaddam's paintings comparable to a peep show? Men with colorful clothes and strange hats, next to women with black and white veils, simply and ironically display the town's people. They may be from any neighborhood or city, sometimes with Iranian identity and sometimes Western or European. They are compressed to each other, and their collective presence has more importance than their individual presence in forming the mass. Such features are even more evident in works exhibiting animals. Crowd and compactness are the properties that all his works have in common. Besides human figures that have sometimes been rendered with specific characteristics, the mentioned features are also noticeable in every place, wall, and car depicted in his works.
The Iranian and European elements and the things that happen in the paintings may be considered the most significant features of "My Fantasy Land" show. Everything is familiar and, at the same time, strange and fantastic. The coexistence of such qualities has added a synchronic feature to Moghaddam's works. The distinguished POV that prevails in his paintings may indicate the artist's intention of dominating every spot in his imaginary cities and fully displaying their details. This can also be read as a kind of memoir, containing images combined in several shots, going beyond the borders of an image and becoming developed throughout the frame with the expressive appearance originating from the artist's emotions and memories. Accordingly, in memories and imaginations, where anything is possible, we see people with various personalities, up-pointing noses, flower-patterned scarves, striped skirts, black veils and heavy make-ups, without hijab and showing blonde hair, fedoras, pink faces, and green coats, who encounter each other at the bakery or interact on a ship.
So the peep show we are looking at is actually the artist's mind that invites us to watch the momentary exhibition of forms and scenes it remembers. In other words, these images, which are executed to function differently than recording objective events and transferring them to the canvas, are resulted from the illustrator mind of the painter, who can work with his visual memories to add imaginary and magic qualities to his paintings.
Cover and slider image:
- Mahsa Hosseini, Darz