I went to see the exhibition of Mehdi Ghadyanloo at Howard Griffin Gallery in London’s Shoreditch.
Last year, I wrote a blog about Mehdi’s mural work on the streets of Tehran and how they are changing the face of the city (link). In Tehran, Mehdi’s murals are the perfect tonic to the unforgiving traffic. Often providing the automobile-bound audience with an avenue of escape into a light, airy, weightless utopian world (at least until the car in front finally moves forward).
I was curious to see how the work of an artist used to canvases 12 meters tall would translate into the gallery space. The often tricky transition from larger-than-life to the comparatively miniscule.
For his show at the gallery, he has produced works on canvas but also sculptural pieces in resin. None of the canvases are more than 2 meters wide or high and the resin pieces are tiny (see my fingers below for scale).
Mehdi’s ideas have translated from street to gallery exceptionally well. His resin pieces, whilst tiny, beckon one in and are an invitation into a suspense-filled parallel world.
The hallmarks of Mehdi’s mural work are ever present. People, shadows, space, urban structures, precision. I was quietly relived and happy to see that each of his paintings, are as clean, precise and, indeed, as epic as his large murals.
Despite their beauty, Mehdi’s work carries an ominous foreboding feel. But why, is it all so clean perfect and still? Perhaps that’s exactly the reason. It’s too silent. It’s too perfect. Something is not right. In its stillness, it raises too many questions.
Why have all the people disappeared?
What’s at the bottom of the deep dark empty space?
What are they discussing in whispers? Why the need for secrecy?
Why are the people huddled together under a precarious mass?
The lack of answers nicely leads the viewers into the darker corners that Mehdi alludes to but does not need or wish to express.
In his works on canvas, Mehdi’s utopias we know from the Tehran streets have taken on a dystopian feel. Weightlessness translated into suspension. Light into shadow. Lightheartedness into heavy but beautiful totalitarian worlds.
Mehdi’s paintings and works in resin are a fantastic transition and I feel the limitations of an in-door show, has sharpened Mehdi’s vision – distilling it into a chilling but very luring story of shadow and light.
Photos ©Howard Griffin Gallery, Mehdi Ghadyanloo, youngpersianartists.com