Rokni Haerizadeh, So Much Water So Close to Home, 2009, Oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm.
Rokni Haerizadeh, from Oh Victory! You Forgot Your Underwear, 2009.
Rokni Haerizadeh, Tehran Cabaret Dubai, 2009, Oil on canvas, 220 x 200.
Rokni Haerizadeh, Inner Amen, 2009, Oil on canvas, 220 x 200 cm.
B 21 Art Gallery
Al Quoz 1
0097 1 (0)4 3403965
Rokni Haerizadeh. Oh Victory!
You Forgot Your Underwear
November 16, 2009-January 7, 2010
The paintings of Rokni Haerizadeh read like novels. Reflections on society are moulded around scenes that have a literary depth and complexity. Like a writer, Rokni enters the minds of his characters – his style shifting between paintings to reflect the atmosphere of the situation he is portraying
As this collection of works shows, the artist is an instinctual storyteller who fashions living characters within his works.
Several new paintings included here continue Rokni’s work in diptych. Huge, multi-panel paintings in this style narrate the unease of Iranian society as it modernises and gropes for an identity. Semblances of the 18th and 19th century societal paintings are subverted.
The grotesque slips into these scenes, and we’re witness to a dark, violent reality that has contorted to his vision.
In Seezdah Begar, we see families picnicking beside a highway in Tehran. Relating to the 13th day of Eid, when it is Iranian tradition to eat outside (for fear of bad luck otherwise), the right-hand panel presents a vision of social segregation.
Men rest on the grass – smoking, playing cards — while women serve food and accommodate the men in a flurry of industry.
With Rokni’s typical injection of fantasy into a mundane reality — society is laid bare by exaggeration. A family who regard themselves as particularly pious, pray furiously in front of a group of dignitaries.
The amount of food being cooked and consumed verges on the ridiculous. And all the while, the towering faces of martyrs watch over this carnival of rampant consumption.
On the left side of the diptych, however, we see an ominous willow tree, created with drips of paint. The collapsing colours and sickly appearance of the willow suggests that it is struggling to survive in this polluted atmosphere. We also see a tree, too thin to support a person, bound in a crude rope swing, and branches hacked down to provide shade.
These images illustrate a recurring theme in Rokni’s work: The sacrifice of nature for the sake of futile amusement.
Relating to an event that occurred while Rokni was in Dubai, the artist has since settled here. In one of the works, he turns his eye onto the contrasts and contradictions of the Western lifestyle put through an Arabic context that he has found here.
JBR Fridays depicts a glistening consumerist temple — expatriates strewn across a blazing beach, tourists petting a transparent camel that wanders incongruously among the half-naked bodies. We get the sense across the works in this show that Rokni has mingled observations, collected over time, into his work. In doing so, we see the ideas that he presents on the canvas in a refined and matured state. Rather than reproducing a specific scene, he creates a living world by the weaving of myriad impressions.
It is this that gives the works grounding. These aren’t simply sardonic attacks or sweeping judgements. There’s a battle going on within each of these works that has emerged with prolonged examination of the people around him. For all of the horror that he finds in the schizophrenic society of Iranians, and the paradoxes, perversities and hypocrisies he encounters in the broader world of human behavior, Rokni never stoops to patronize his subjects. The world remains a complex and limitless field for reflection. But it’s a world that, for him, only comes alive if it’s approached with wryness; a world of contradictions that we can either despair of or laugh at once we peer behind the mask and face its absurdity.
Rokni Haerizadeh paints with an extraordinary ability to immerse himself in the past, in myth and memory, literature and lore, whilst remaining firmly rooted in the popular culture and urban rhythm of the present.
Born in Tehran in 1978, Haerizadeh has grown up with the Islamic Republic, and is as much an involuntary product of his times as he is a keen critic of his social environment. He studied painting at Tehran University and obtained a certificate in Writing from the Islamic Ministry of Culture and Guidance.
Rokni Haerizadeh is one of the most successful artists of his generation outside Iran. He received international acclaim for his monumental diptychs exhibited earlier this year at Charles Saatchi’s exhibition •Unveiled, New Art from the Middle-East• and was credited for narrating an entire nation uneasy modernization and identity shift via his paintings of Iranian’s social gathering. He recently participated in the •Raad O Bargh• exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, Paris and Salzburg.
His works can be found in prestigious collections, among others Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran, Charles Saatchi Collection, London, UK, JP Morgan Collection, NY, USA and the Devi Art Foundation. This Rokni Haerizadeh's third show in Dubai at his satirical best, finding pomp and farce in the most unlikely of places. He has lived and worked in Dubai since March 2009.