Blain/Southern presents ‘At Once’, an exhibition of oil paintings created over the last two years by the New York-based artist Ali Banisadr. This is the artist’s first-ever solo show in the UK and includes a 7-metre long triptych, his largest work to date. Banisadr’s work Oscillates between the abstract and the figurative, the artist’s paintings feature fantastical landscapes populated with grotesque hybrids in a perpetual state of frenzy. These characters are conflations of animal, god, machine and human. Frequently there is a sense of a heaven and earth: in the lower half, we witness temporal struggles, physical conflict and angst, while above the characters seem more at peace; as if they have surrendered themselves to the ether.
In the work ‘The Lesser Lights’, 2014, Banisadr’s hybrids are engaged in some chaotic communion. While what is actually taking place is ambivalent – the scene could be a battle, or a place of pilgrimage or simply a bacchanal – its title, an allusion drawn from the Book of Genesis and other writings, suggests the setting is hell, which is reinforced by the dripping, lilac pink sky descending on the figures. In another work, ‘The Lower Depths’, 2014, the artist features a lake of acidic yellows, greens and blues, from which a giant animal struggles to escape. In the foreground a gaited human leg is smothered by what appears to be a prehistoric bird, while a female figure, naked from the midriff, flies above a beast’s head. As with much of Banisadr’s work, the viewer is left feeling that the scene before them may dissolve at any point; the works convey a strong sense of movement and instability, suggestive of a world in flux.
The artist’s art-historical inspirations are extensive; Persian miniaturists, Kandinsky, Marinetti,Veronese, Richter, Abstract Expressionism and the nightmarish visions of Bosch and Brueghel. Alongside these are a range of literary influences, as well as contemporary motifs drawn from comic books, films and music. Sound is integral to Banisadr’s practice; many aspects of his work could be attributable to the synaesthesia he experiences while painting. This began when he was a child growing up in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war, where he drew the sounds of bombing and air-raids to make sense of what was happening.
For Banisadr, painting is evidently a means to reflect visually on his thoughts, memories and imagination. While intensely personal, it is a line of enquiry that allows him to chip away at artistic, political, cultural and religious shibboleths. It is significant that he invariably eschews the Western tradition of including a central focal point or protagonist. In doing so he allows the beholder to commune with a bigger idea of humanity itself and imbues his work with a universal quality, offering an invitation to the viewer to renew not just their own visual and psychological references, but also to question larger conventional orthodoxies.
Ali Banisadr At Once – Blain/Southern – 11 February 2015 to 21 March 2015