In his best-known works the iconic
Iranian artist Fereydoun Ave has constantly investigated historical turning
points, ancient motifs and the social aspects of his ancestral mythology –
aspects that move through historical and contemporary narratives.
Through his 2003 series, “In search of
Heroes,” Ave merges the figures of Iranian wrestlers with ancient reliefs of
Persian kings and warriors, a selective collage that conflates the relationship
between ancient Persian heroes and those of our own time.
In a more metaphorical approach to the
same method of investigation, the next two series, “Rostam in late summer” and
“Rostam in the dead of winter,” betray a strong continuity with “Heroes.” As he
unifies the ancient masculine personage, Rostam, he introduces a criteria he
calls “macho-mystic” as a means of opening up the interpretative range of the
Though his works use Persian
mythological discourse as their codex, Ave has also used more global paradigms.
In his “D-Art boards For Tibet,” he depicts the Chinese-Tibetan conflict in
twin dart boards, Maos and Mandelas. Throughout his oeuvre, Ave has often
interwoven local fable and history with memories of a wider world.
“Recent Works,” Ave’s latest show in
Khak Gallery, represents something of a departure from this earlier work,
illustrating his own personal history – a tale of survival after a long battle
“Recent Works” consists of 11
mixed-media pieces and seven sculptures. Each of the mixed-media works begins
with haphazard schemas and splashes of watercolor. The artist then prints
familiar snapshots of daily life. Finally he over-paints them with new
Based on the evidence of this show,
Ave’s personal history includes a half-naked figure, flowers and wreaths,
colorful world atlases with bunches of flowers, a still photo of a chair and a
closed window with blinds, a reclining figure of the artist, a chalice,
furrowed pillows and family portraits.
Born in 1945, Ave belongs to the first
generation of Iranian contemporary artists who in the 1970s challenged the art
of the Middle East and western Asia generally. His works are often intuitive
responses to Iran’s social and political conditions. The work is hardly
parochial, though, since ancient mythology and history are not limited to the
Iranian experience alone.
The artist has said he regards his new
series of work to be akin to a poem. These works create words and clauses, as
if the poetic lexicon were located within this world. Like a poem, Ave’s art is
capable of provoking multiple readings.
A nude figure may depict the champion
of ancient Persian mythology, or symbolize an inter-textual indicator for
critics. For Ave, the figure is a diary-like realization of a Turkish wrestler
he once met in Paris. An antique Persian photograph surely relates to Qajar-era
photography, though it is a family portrait of Ave’s ancestors in Yazd.
Ave’s “Divas” both address an era of
fear and stability, as referenced in “Haftan Amshaspandan” (“Amshaspand” means
“blessed immortal”) and gigantic sphinxes. Ave builds a contemporary legion of
sphinxes in which fear and security are nurtured in a parallel and equal
As he names these creatures, he tends
to depict the paradoxical nature of fear and security, a mixture that is born
in an inconsistent organism that has pushed its way through aeons, surviving in
the socio-political patterns of our time.
Ave exhibits these works without an
appendix. He releases anonymous lived experience to blend itself into our
common history. Just as these pictorial clauses are reinterpreted from time to
time, different senses of these anonymous memories transform into a sort of
Archaeology and reliance on the encounter of similes makes this body of
work a set of “chansons imaginaires.” Ave’s works tend to divulge oblivion, an
oblivion where things are neither forgotten nor remembered, where the wax idol
of his contemporary life, and common sense, melt and congeal under the sun.