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Visual Reconstruction of a Speechless Landscape

Alas, how colorless and traceless I am Vah, Cheh Bi Rang o Bi Neshan Ke Manam

How could you perceive me as I am? Key Bebini Mara Chonan Ke Manam?

(Jalaledin Rumi)

In the absence of a continued tradition of visual arts, the Iranian painter’s search for a contemporary visual language inevitably leads to a search along one’s own past.  As a result, self-experience replaces artistic heritage. Nostalgia, Reza Doust’s latest collection represents footsteps of the artist’s search for a self-expressive visual language, the search that up until this day points out the main crisis of contemporary Iranian painting.

Doust is an Iranian artist from Isfahan, raised and educated within the Iranian artistic society. He has studied and mastered the classical Persian miniature (with a personal appreciation for works of Reza Abbasi from the third classical era of Iranian Miniature painting) parallel to working with certain Iranian artistic circles that focus on contemporary styles. His continuous painting along these two extremely contradictory schools has led to the powerful Nostalgia collection, a conscious choice of contemporary artistic language over the classical one.

In Nostalgia, Reza Doust first starts with scattered black, melancholic and depressed, a very symbolic color to Iranians, as the point of departure for the artist. And this is exactly what he is trying to escape from, the dominant dry black,

It is night Hast Shab

Yes the night Ary Shab

(N. Youshij)

But upon his attempt to escape the ruling tone, he discovers blue out of a necessity. The Persian blue, the blue of Isfahan’s ceramic tiles, ancient and mystic, sign of purity and release, where the painter seeks refuge in the corner of the canvas to breath for a moment.

Oh love Ah Eshq

Oh love Ah Eshq

The blue color of your face is not visible. Range Abiye Chehre-at Peyda Nist

(A. Shamlou)

Those who have been following Reza Doust’s work closely are aware of the long and frustrating process which took him to allow gradual emergence of certain shades of color and on later stages the full appearance of intensified tones. Such maddening transition for the artist, as more figurative forms faded away and colors take over, reflects the artist’s struggle between past and present as stylistic notations. Nostalgia is a collection of attempts to balance this process without surrendering entirely to either one. Because as much as the artist desires to reach a self-representing style, he is loyal to his subject. He has something to say, something beyond the narrative, beyond a mere social statement: a dark dreadful landscape that reminisces the artist’s past.

Visual representation of hidden contemporary moments in absence of their natural forms. Painting our collective nightmares as the reality of the present-day Iranian landscape, a barren dreadful scene, but nevertheless poetic

Leafless garden, Baqe Bi Bargi

Who said it is not magnificent? Ke Migooyad Ke Ziba Nist?

It tells stories of the sky- reaching fruits, Dastan Az Mivehaye Sar Be Gardoon Saye Inak

now berried in coffin of the dust below. Khofteh Dar Taboote Paste Khak Migooyad.

(M. Akhavan Sa-les)

Nostalgia was painted entirely during the artist’s residence out of Iran from 1996 to present, yet one should not mistake the collection for a mere demonstration of artist’s feelings of being away from home.

Looking at Doust’s works, it is inevitable to recall where he comes from. Historic space, not as a geographic location or a chronology of events, but rather a set of human collective experiences recreated on the canvas

I am from Kashan, but Ahle Kashanam Amma

My city is not Kashan Shahre Man Kashan Nist

My city is lost Shahre Man Gom Shodeh Ast

I have built a home with love and dust Man Ba Eshq, Man Ba Khak

On the other side of the night. Khaneh-I Dar Tarafe Digare Shab Sakhteh-am.

(S. Sepehri)

Narrow pathways, barren trees, windows opening to certain landscapes, shadow-like figures facing walls and doors, houses, crooked ceilings, dungeons, masculine embracing arms, mourners weeping in dark halls, dismembered body-parts hanging off the walls, men lying on their back, curved windows of an old house, tombstones, and doors opening to other doors, all interconnected, take us back for a journey to where black reigns.

I talk from the extremity of the night Man Az Nahayat-e Shab Harf Mizanam

I talk from extremity of the darkness Man Az Nahayat-e Tariky

and extremity of the night Va Az Nahayat-e Shab Harf Mizanam

(F. Farokhzad)

Reza Doust’s attempt to de-aestheticize the screaming visible “reality” by giving voice to the concealed whispering images, has lead to reconstruction of his own aesthetics: aesthetic of the shadows.

“In life there are certain sores that, like a canker, gnaw at the soul in solitude and diminish it….I shall try to put down whatever I recall, whatever has remained in my memory of the relations that connect the events. Perhaps I can make a universal judgment about it. No. I want merely to become sure, or else to believe it myself…..I write only for my shadow which is cast on the wall in front of the light. I must introduce myself to it.”

Blind Owl (S. Hedayat)

Nostalgia is nothing but confronting one’s own shadows on canvas.

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