Artist Statement

In Search of Lost Space

Pavillon Southway, 433 boulevard Michelet, 13009 Marseille.
From July 1st to 24th, 2022.

Hadi Alijani’s exhibition is the result of his residency in Marseille at the Southway Pavilion in April 2022. We wanted to invite Hadi because of the nature of his work and his view on history, which could be described as oracular vernacular.

Hadi Alijani inscribes his practice in the long Persian artistic tradition. Nourished by the influences of an art that flourished under the Safavid dynasty (1501-1736) and especially the painting of the Qadjar dynasty (1789-1925), he paints contemplative still lifes, true contemporary icons, in a timeless fusion between the West and the East. His practice crystallizes this long cultural dialogue between Europe and Iran, which has been going on since the 17th century.
Alijani’s formal references to Qadjar art are mainly related to still life, in the spirit of Mirza Baba. His obsti¬nate and patient gesture creates meditative hybridizations whose objects - fruit bowls, vases, flowers... - seem to haunt an architectural setting, where the human presence is only suggested, even ghostly. A timeless and spatial veil transpires from his paintings, due in particular to the ambiguity of the decors or objects, often out of time, sometimes marked by modernity, like the irruption of a vegetable peeler. One can also detect an influence of a little known style of Persian painting, called Farangi Sazi («The Western Way»). The Farangi Sazi style emerged under Shah Abbas II (1642-1666), in the last decades of the Safavid Empire. It links the East and the West, both by borrowing genres from Western painting (mythological scenes, genre scenes, still lifes, characters dressed in European style) or by using techniques and forms (more naturalism, attention to perspective, lighting... Staging characters dressed in Western or antique style) not common until the seventeenth century in the art of Muslim Persia, at least outside of illuminations. In his still lifes, the artist deploys a sometimes rough, sometimes soft treatment of materials, fabrics and textures. Sometimes we see a drape in the background, revealing a city in the distance, in the manner of an Italian Renaissance painting.

Hadi Alijani is part of this continuity of artistic exchanges between the East and the West. Thus, just as we find in Farangi Sazi type paintings figures in togas or gallant scenes in the moonlight, there is in his still lifes a little of the solemnity of Giorgio Morandi’s portraits of objects, Giorgio De Chirico’s phantasmagorical urban views or Matisse’s interiors.

However, it is in relation to the work of Cézanne, a respected reference, that the artist maintains the most trou¬bling kinship. He depicts his subjects in an almost floating roundness, where flat tints and reliefs constitute the moving border of a humble pictorial universe and yet animated by a plasticity that goes beyond the two-dimen-sional nature of painting. Calabashes, coloquintes, utensils and dishes seem to levitate on tables or carpets. Of simple aspect, almost familiar, the settings of his still lifes are however charged with history. One of the com¬positions he executed during his residency in Marseille is a testimony to this. He combines his usual decorative gourds with a faithful representation of the Pazyryk carpet, the oldest known carpet (woven around the fifth century BC and found in the tomb of a Scythian prince) and a leopard’s fur. The meditative force of the still life is then united with a tribute to Indo-European history and underlines the pendulum movement that he operates between the ages and cultures.


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