Art Out: Foreign Lands by Ali Banisadr
By Amanda Ryan
A buffet of colors. A rhythm of lines. Poetry as mise-en-scène.
Ali Banisadr’s paintings seemingly exist in a state of suspended animation—a brief moment of coherence and order poised to collapse back into a riotous cacophony. Thickly-laid strokes of expressionistic color blend with diaphanous washes produce spectral figures, shifting between abstraction and figuration as the viewer’s eye moves around the canvas. Dot and dashes punctuate the composition between layers of paint like Morse code, providing a scaffold for the image that holds it between two and three dimensions, at times creating depth-of-field and at others flattening into pure geometry, depending on how you look at it.
Recently opened at Het Noordbrabants Museum in the Netherlands, “Foreign Lands” is NYC-based painter Ali Banisadr’s first retrospective in Europe. The exhibition brings together paintings and works on paper from the past decade of the artist’s career, including a new painting created specifically for the exhibition, Hold the Fort (2019). The tight selection of works allows Banisadr’s expansive canvases ample room to breathe, and encourages close looking as new discoveries continually unfold in his shape-shifting works.
Banisadr weaves together a diverse array of influences from art, film, literature, music, politics, and history to produce frenetic mythological scenes reminiscent of a Bosch or Breugel painting. A lover of art history, Banisadr can cheerfully expound upon any number of subjects—from Old Master paintings to Abstract Expressionism, from Surrealism and Dada to Persian miniatures.
Sound is of particular importance in his process—the artist has synaesthesia, in which one sense triggers another (for example, hearing a shape or tasting a color). He describes how the sound of the brush on the canvas guides the initial lines that structure his composition, and it becomes easier to understand how he creates this palpable sense of rhythm and motion, of static images in constant flux.
For Banisadr, his paintings are a form of visual poetry, representing those liminal spaces of dream, hallucination, memory, and myth that can’t quite be put into words.
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