Hamid Keshmirshekan

The paintings of Hadi Alijani prepare a sub strata for the dual coexistence of the subconscious and conscious, nature (animals) and culture (humans), structuralistic thought and deconstructive perspective, and methods of modernism and fractured postmodernism. In our world, even doubt, feelings of insecurity and danger are found together with feelings of joy and happiness. Attention to the center of imagination and the dreamlike quality of elements and compounds, such as those found illustrated in surrealist projects, plays a prominent role in the paintings of this collection of Alijani’s work. However, in his recent paintings and sculpture-installations, we find elements of imagination, face to face with “real actions” in a dialectic relationship. In the past, surrealists put a lot of effort into their search to get in touch with the subconscious in order to increase their visual prowess. For them, dreams were the limits of possibility: the limitations of rationality and moral judgment that an artist frees themself from. We can see this surreal motivation trapping the subconscious mind and also the tendency of the surrealists toward myths and primitivism in some of Alijani’s works. Like the surrealists, he utilizes imagination and with discovery, he encourages his inner self to create dreamlike images that reflect his inner most thoughts with strange elements and symbols. Keeping in mind the amount of importance the surrealists give to the free reign of the subconscious mind, in fact, this spontaneous confrontation by the artists associated with this current of using of shapes and elements is completely on a basis of selectivity. For example, Juan Miro was inspired by the possibility of creating free “biomorphic” forms, but he used these shapes in an orderly manner within a dream world, creating a calculated abstract composition, thus putting a new style into motion. In Alijani’s paintings, he takes the sweet and subconscious style of primitivism with a tendency, in practice, to use structure and color in a conscious endeavor to incorporate various types of elements of writing, using old alphabets, and at times, ancient ones. To portray this joy and childish fun with a self-taught artistic skill, especially in Alijani’s earlier works, he creates his well-planned complicated compositions borrowing elements from reality.

One of the key elements of Alijani’s work, at least in most of his work, is his clashing with the issue of a collective identity and reflecting this in form, color and composition by reverting to shapes from art of the past, especially Iranian miniature, and at times ancient literary texts. This is the same characteristic that directs his standards and his conscious actions while painting (as well as his sculpting). In his paintings, we can find traces of a concern for resurrecting a cultural heritage, as well as a lost original identity, which constitute an example of what led up to the cultural choices made in the years after the revolution, especially in the first part of the 1990’s. This process had obvious similarities with the concerns which, from the beginning of the Iranian modern art movement of the 1960s, played an effective role in shaping an important part of the artwork of that era and continued through the following decades. The only difference, in recent times, was that during these years, special attention has been paid to the trend or revival or restoration of traditional illustration, aligned with the inception of an Iranian-Islamic identity, specifically in the foundations of Iranian painting and illustration or miniature as illustrious sources of art of the past, along with the recovery or discovery of an Iranian illustration identity. To this effect, widespread attempts were made by official art channels and the artists of the past generations and perhaps this still continues to be a concern for some. It seems that Alijani is also one of those still concerned. He occasionally makes direct visual quotes from obvious elements of Iranian painting in his work, as well as familiar visual signs and symbols from modern European painters (such as Juan Miro, Henri Matisse and Paul Klee). In Alijani’s 2014 collection titled We Saw the Sun Today, we see heavenly and magical landscapes, clear examples of Iranian miniature, but mostly missing the human figure. This influence, even in a less subtle manner, has a more or less tangible presence in his later work. Therefore, it seems that Alijani at times (especially in his Hunting Studio collection of 2016), has a deconstructive view of traditional illustration as well as “general order,” and looks upon it with sarcasm and scorn. At times, with the assistance of a fantastic and dreamlike atmosphere, a recurring theme in all his work, he wants to get across a point, opposite of what has been proved and is pure, to his audience. We can see this present collection as a turning point in his career. In these paintings, narrative elements and at times symbols within plant, animal and human forms are taken from classical literature (such as the Tale of Kalileh and Demneh by Rudaki). Also, the influence of Nami (Mohammad Siah-Ghalam), the Persian miniaturist from the second half of the 16th century AD and his unique grotesque style, can be seen in this collection. Alijani, de-familiarizes a given concept, while avoiding the narrative and in this way adds personal symbolic shapes and anecdotal images to his work. This collection has a pre-modern fantasy world full of natural elements, sea and land animals and prehistoric humans, and even some contemporary humans. As an example, dreamlike couples, such as a bride and groom in a wedding, become a recurring element that shows up in his following collections.

Even though Alijani’s canvases are reflections of timeless and placeless scenarios, the destiny of most of the geographic events happen in a special time and place where the artist himself lives. In some of the recent examples, elements taken from daily living, current events or even iconic images from the news are found beside ancient myths and legends which become synthesized images and meanings, yet at the same time are transformed into out of place, contradictory, distorted and inconsistent tangible contemporary social realities which at times imply very personal narratives. In this recent collection, the artist benefits from the accomplishments of his previous compositions, in a special way that he uses them to portray the subjects and narratives which currently surround him. The obscure environments and multiple images of these works are clearly associated with the formal anti-modernist characteristics of his previous collections, challenging modernist notions such as unity, or ends justifying means, or reaching comprehension through fundamental principles, are all clear characteristics of these works. In some of his recent work, Alijani has courageously taken patterns of 2-dimensional images from his paintings and has recreated them in 3-dimensions in the form of statues and installations. In these installations that play a complementary role alongside his paintings, the artist invites the audience to actually be present and participate in his strange and delusionary world which at times presents with a bitter sarcasm.

On the whole, the realm of Alijani’s artwork, one that originates from a historical and cultural background, is in fact a reflection of our real contemporary world full of conflict in which we live and which he has experienced and comprehended: a world which has brought forth a sub strata for the manifestation and side by side coexistence of asynchronous, contradictory and inconsistent elements.

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