The art of Mehdi Ghadyanloo
Ghadyanloo paintings are quiet and still, confronting the viewer with a void that seems strangely personal yet mysterious and unexpected. They ask us to pause, question and absorb. Minimal and boldly coloured, these unique hexagon canvases depict hyperreal paintings of boxes and enclosed spaces. The austere and neat forms of the seemingly three dimensional cubic structures are interrupted by small, yet expansive openings, creating unpredicted escapes that transform the minimal compositions into complex and narrative environments. These apertures are represented by doors, stairways or circulars holes and serve as portals of light, or beacons of hope within these otherwise tragically confined spaces.
Coming from agricultural backgrounds Ghadyanloo started his career as an artist straight after finishing a fine art degree at University of Tehran when he responded to an open call by the Iranian municipality. In response to the monochrome and notoriously polluted cityscape of Tehran, Ghandyanloo proposed surreal like compositions of stairways leading into crispy blue coloured skies, flying cars and figures holding hands all portrayed in a wonderfully magical realm. Here dystopian chaos of city life collides gracefully with the utopia of a perfect world; portraying a reality imagined rather than perceived. Ghadyanloo, who has since made hundreds of murals nationally and internationally and was most notably the first Iranian artist after the revolution to be commissioned a monumental mural entitled ‘Spaces of Hope’ in 2016 for Boston, Greenway Conservancy, has expressed that for him his public works are forms of activism. While his artistic practice is deeply rooted in his personal history of living in Iran, including the profound effect of a childhood enduring the Iran-Iraq war while his father was at the forefront of the battle; he truly considers himself a citizen of the world and believes that his compositions create a relief and revelation for a collective consciousness that is encountering the difficulties and malaise of quotidian life and current world politics.
It is not a surprise that Ghadyanloo has stated the influence of metaphysical paintings and in particular the works of Giorgio De Chirico. Chirico believed in art as a prophecy and the artist as a ‘poet-seer’ who could reveal ‘true reality’ by removing a layer of the quotation appearances. Chirico’s paintings transcend the physical appearance of reality and confront the viewer with indecipherable images by representing the eeriness of everyday life in it purest and most stripped down form. These notions are sensed strongly in Ghadyanloo’s most recent series of ‘Boxes’ shown here in Oslo: devoid of figures and in their most distilled form, the artist depicts the simple structure of four walls, which at times he interrupts by including an everyday object such as a door or slide that he daily encounters when taking his kids to the local playground. Ghadyanloo states how these works make reference to memories of living in small and dimly lit cubic rooms to which his family took refuge during the war. The artist injected these memories with exuberant colours, oils squeezed directly from tube onto canvas preserved in their purest form to maximise light within the compositions. The virtue and zen like quality within these works is deeply inspired by self taught Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, whose work focused on the inner feeling of a space rather than outward appearance. Similarly for Ghadyanloo the series of ‘Boxes’ are inward looking pieces and represent notions of hope and despair simultaneously. His work deeply connected to Eastern philosophy where suffering is inherent to life resonates strongly with a famous Rumi quote “The wound is the place where the Light enters you”.
It is to note that ‘Boxes’ are deliberate tricks to the eye, characteristic of Ghadyanloo’s masterful tromp l’oeil skills, they fool us to be three dimensional objects that upon close inspection reveal their flatness. The object quality of the cube brings to mind the works of eminent minimal artists such as Donald Judd and Sol Le Witt, who both made no attempt to represent an outside reality within their cubic structures. Their structures were absolutely self referential, focusing on the object and removed from further meaning. Ghadyanloo asks us to do the opposite, his works triggers us to look inside and stirs us in the most philosophical manner about what is around us. In this case Ghadyanloo’s studio and home in Tehran surrounded by a juggernaut of skyscrapers, just like boxes upon boxes he lives in a city where literal and metaphorical space becomes tighter and tighter. This sense of claustrophobia is represented in Ghadyanloo’s tragically confined spaces, that yet completely unexpectedly, offer us a small portal of light that leads us to unlimited imagination and expansion.
Text by Leyla Fakhr