BEIRUT: Gemmayzeh’s ArtLab Gallery is now hosting “Persian Maxis,” gathering more than 30 works by 13 Iranian artists, including Morteza Khosravi, Hena Hanzali, Arman Esmailpour and Nahid Kazemi.
Meandering through the gallery, viewers will fall upon a range of unique techniques – touching mixed-media works, disturbing acrylic-on-canvas pieces and startling original drawings.
One of Khosravi’s works portrays two men lighting up a cigarette, their faces covered with mud – or else something looking very much like mud. The background is quite blurry and anonymous, but the two figures are intriguing.
Layer upon layer has been applied to the canvas so the paint protrudes from the surface like an invasive sculptural presence, as if the artist were luring onlookers into the very fabric of the piece.
Other works on display are yet more disturbing.
In Esmailpour’s works, the artist confronts the viewer directly. These black-and-white nudes of Esmailpour depict him holding what appears to be the skull of a dead cow. The artist’s aims are hardly direct or transparent, but there is something eerie in his portrayal of self – eyes closed, chin up, as though entranced in an extreme state of alienation.
Reza Hedayat paints his backgrounds first, then his foreground. Scrutinizing his works, onlookers may notice that the animals or human figures have been painted while the artist was applying a layer of green-tinted paint to the colorful background, so there is no distinction between the characters, as they are all linked to on another by one layer of paint. The effect is to convey the impression that the scene is oddly alive.
Those fond of experiencing art in a tactile way may feel a kinship with the portraits of Elham Fatemi. One of the untitled works represents a person with no definable gender. Gazing straight at the viewer, this character seems terribly sad or yearning for attention.
The only part of the face that is clearly detailed is the eyes, as though the figure were trying to access your soul – the eyes being the mirror of the soul.
“Persian Maxis” is a sequel of sorts to the gallery’s January exhibition “Persian Minis,” which featured a range of minuscule works by nine Iranian artists that, though small in size, were replete with different perspectives the creator’s vision of their native country.
Though much of the work on show here is of large scale, there are some miniatures as well – like bite-sized portrayals of the broad canvas of Iranian culture.
The themes that are addressed in the exhibition are broad, ranging from physical and mental disability to mutilation, violence and the quest for identity.
Kazemi’s small watercolors are dominated by landscape scenes. Trees, rivers, banks of fog and green spaces mingle together as though forming diminutive tapestries. Each layer of paint is applied in a way to give the works a sort of opacity, transforming these minimal pieces into significant art.
“Persian Maxis” is on show at ArtLab Gallery until April 26. For more information, please call 03-244-577.