Spaces of Hope 2 March 2017
On 2 March 2017, Howard Griffin Gallery presentecd “Spaces of Hope”, a much anticipated exhibition of new work from Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo. The show took place in the 14,000 square foot subterranean former industrial testing facility of Ambika P3 in central London, occupying the walls of this epic site with a new body of large-scale paintings alongside an ambitious sculptural installation, opening up the conceptual space of the artist’s paintings into the three-dimensional space of the gallery for the first time.
Visitors to the exhibition are disoriented by vast, empty landscapes dominated by architectural forms. An empty spiral staircase rises from a dark chasm in the floor through a monumental stone room, falling just short of an oculus with warm light streaming through it. A vast and unending plain is puncttured by a void carved into the ground, with groups of people descending down stairs into the abyss. In a utopian scene, the empty tower blocks of contemporary Tehran are displaced, inhabiting a borderless unending plain. A single cloud hovers above a barren, desert landscape. Figures huddle together and walk towards a light emanating from some unknown source. These are the paintings of Spaces of Hope – beautiful, beguiling and ominous.
Ghadyanloo’s aesthetic can be traced to the otherworldy landscapes of European surrealist painters such as René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico, spaces inspired by the deepest recesses of the psyche here used to frame the minimal lines of modernist 20th century architecture so loved by Le Corbusier. Yet beneath these stylistic elements, the artist’s work stems directly from his Persian heritage and the influence of great Persian philosophers, poets and thinkers. Drawing these influences together in his own unique style, Ghadyanloo represents a true and authentic cultural innovator coming out of Iran, breaking with tradition and finding new ways to express the ideas of his generation.
The sometimes sombre and melancholy tone and expression of Ghadyanloo’s work stems from his experience growing up in Iran under severe conditions of military conflict and economic sanction. The palpable silence of his landscapes implies an anxiety and fear that cannot be spoken aloud; an airless vaccum that swallows matter and collapses time. Yet in spite of this, Ghadyanloo’s paintings offer fleeting instances of hope found in the most difficult of places. All too often out of reach yet ever present in our lives, the message of Ghadyanloo’s work is the power of hope, to illuminate the spaces of darkness and lead us to a brighter future.
At a time of huge political instability, Ghadyanloo’s perspective on world affairs through his position as a Middle Eastern artist regularly moving across borders gives a voice to the hopes and fears of those most affected by a growing isolationism . Ghadyanloo’s work aims to transport us to a different spatial dimension that invites us to consider our shared humanity beyond borders. In this way, Ghadyanloo’s expansive paintings are a meditation on the universality of all of our existences. Spaces of Hope offers an at times sombre worldview, albeit one where beauty and hope remain and where there is still a possibility of a better future for all.