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Ali Banisadr’s exuberant works strike a balance between chaos and composure in his attempt to communicate the emotional and sensory response to war. Born in Tehran in 1976, Banisadr’s formative childhood years were during the Iran-Iraq war, forcing him and his family to relocate to the United States where he remains as an active artist based in New York. Banisadr earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, and an MFA from the New York Academy of Art, where he was awarded the post graduate fellowship followed by winning an award in painting from New York Foundation for the Arts.
Banisadr’s experiences including the traumatic violence he witnessed as a child and the tumult of fleeing his war-stricken home at a young age colour his oeuvre, apparent in his choice of subject matter as well as painterly style and compositions. Similar to Hieronymus Bosch, to whom he is often compared, Banisadr creates vast landscapes that border on the fantastical in their complexity, expanse and use of a bright palette, yet also contain a great amount of figurative detail resulting in a frenzied and hypnotizing canvas. From afar, the large strokes of colour coupled with the more delicate and precise detailing beg for closer inspection; doing so provides clarity and a narrative of sorts can be deciphered, all the while maintaining a level of abstraction that reflects the whirlwind of emotions Banisadr is conveying. Banisadr draws parallels between his art and sound, a sense through which he understands his early experiences. The elegant flurry of activity and varied brush strokes that enliven his canvases recall a symphony, powerful as a whole while also rich in its components.
Banisadr’s panoramic works are rooted in his personal recollections, as well as a collective memory and thorough understanding of history and art movements. His direct experiences converge with myth, world history, and invented narratives, creating canvases that are expressively layered in meaning as well as paint. Astutely aware of the dysfunction and disorder of the world, Banisadr’s paintings allude to universal emotions of the human condition. As he explains, “I became fascinated with all histories of war, conspiracies, colonialism, corruption, ancient and modern battles… Opposition and conflict are at the heart of my work.” This conflict can be seen in his seemingly spontaneous and gestural compositions common in Expressionist and Futurist works, which Banisadr also sites as sources of influence.
The size, intricacy, and number of small figures and objects in his works recall the great tradition of Persian miniatures found in illuminated manuscripts. By recalling his Iranian heritage through this visual quotation, the artist is aligning himself within the lineage of a rich artistic history while also embracing abstraction and elements from pop culture and media in his works. Banisadr identifies with his personal heritage and communicates that through a visual language that aptly reflects the fear, violence, and confusion of his memories.
Through effective use of colour and painterly control, Banisadr translates the imagery of his childhood, his extensive understanding of art history, and his sharp observations of everyday life onto canvas, capturing insightful details of humanity with movement, energy, and abstraction. For Banisadr, painting is his means of visually understanding the world, and is a medium through which emotions, ideas, and sensations successfully come together.
Ali Banisadr’s recent solo exhibitions include; At Once, Blain|Southern, London (2015); Motherboard, Sperone Westwater, New York (2014); We Haven’t Landed on Earth Yet, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg (2012); It Happened and It Never Did, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York (2011) and Evidence, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris (2010).
Group exhibitions include; Eurasia, A View on Painting, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris (2014); Love Me/Love Me Not, Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbors, Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku (2014); Expanded Painting, Prague Biennale 6, curated by Helena Kontova, Giancarlo Politi, and Nicola Trezzi, Prague (2013); Cinematic Visions: Painting at the Edge of Reality, Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2013); Love Me/Love Me Not, Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbors, The 55th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); Contemporary Iranian art in the Permanent Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012); Hareng Saur: Ensor and Contemporary Art, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK), Ghent (2010) and Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, The Saatchi Gallery, London (2009).
His most recent publication: Ali Banisadr: One Hundred and Twenty Five Paintings, Blain|Southern, London (2015), has been published on the occasion of his recent solo exhibition at Blain|Southern Gallery in London. The book is a fully-illustrated catalogue, including colour plates of more than one hundred Banisadr paintings, along with an essay by art historian and curator Dr Robert Hobbs and an interview between the artist and philosopher, critic and media theorist, Dr Boris Groys.
Banisadr’s works are housed in prestigious public collections worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Saatchi Gallery, London and the British Museum, London among others.
Image Above (detail):
Oil on linen
167.6 x 223.5 cm / (66 x 88 in)
Love Me, Love Me Not: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbours recently opened at the Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan.