Hesam Rahmanian
Now the Dove and the Leopard Wrestle at Five in the Afternoon

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

January 10, 2013

Hesam Rahmanian
Now the Dove and the Leopard Wrestle at Five in the Afternoon

15 January–28 February 2013

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Al Quoz 1, St 8, Al Serkal Ave, #17
PO Box 18217
Dubai, UAE

T/F +971 (0)4 323 5052
info [​at​] ivde.net


Rahmanian’s works reveal his own private universe, a fantastical matrix of life inhabited by animals, people and assorted functional objects. The inanimate objects’ roles along with those of the human and animal forms are visually displaced in Rahmanian’s realm, and yet the suggestion beyond that which is literally painted is of a return to earth, with the possibility of resuscitation. The encounters of unexpected realities from the artist’s personal obsessions on unfamiliar planes resonate with the Surrealist approach to creating new life.

Rahmanian’s latest body of work shows the artist moving away from the illustrative direction of his last solo exhibition and toward a more process-oriented way of working. The imagery of bull fights, political arenas and animal slaughter featured previously are gone from these new paintings. Rahmanian has pursued a more exploratory, painterly voice in Now the Dove and the Leopard Wrestle at Five in the Afternoon.

At the core of this development is his use of cast-off acrylic, scraped from dried-out paint pots and palettes. The artist has pasted cuts of this globulous mass onto paper to create a series of animals and gestural humanoid forms, often positioned in a self-consciously rigid wire-frame environment.

We see plays of texture, structure and simplicity: the ridged back of a chameleon as it clings insect-like to the end of a branch, or the bulbous shape of a nesting bird with its crescent beak composed of a fibrous mesh of colour. 

Rahmanian has returned to the kiln that fired those earlier pieces and extracted new life from the otherwise dead and discarded material that created them. Scenes evolve out of the haphazard, arbitrary nature of how the paint has dried and peeled off his palette. Narratives—however restrained they might appear—take shape around these naive forms.

Accompanying the collages is a selection of portraits of world leaders viewed from behind. Aside from those with obvious affectations of their stateliness (notably the Pope and the Queen of England), we still recognise the subject of each of these images despite seeing only the backs of their heads. Similarly, although we can’t see features or expressions on their faces, some sense of mood exudes out of these reverse portraits in the slight bow or incline of the head, or hints of a smile from the cheek bones.

Recurrent throughout this show is an investigation into how best to communicate a feeling or sensation in the simplest terms. Detail is minimal, but form and gesture are vital and vitalised. His diptychs and triptychs vivify the improbable by uniting disembodied or headless animals with miscellaneous objects. The resulting hybrids, such as pliers chirping from a crow’s body, appear animate despite being incomplete suggestions formed of peculiar contradictions.

The artist talks about his youth in Tehran, surrounded by animals that, as they succumbed to age, would be buried in the garden of his family home. Macabre it may be, but greenery flourished in this fertilised soil. This latest exhibition takes this process at its heart—the breaking down of dearly held earlier concerns and creating something simpler yet forthright in the process. As the artist himself notes, cherry trees yield sweet, ripe fruit even though they grow out of graveyards.

The Dubai-based Iranian artist most recently presented I Put It There, You Name It at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde alongside Rokni and Ramin Haerizadeh in March 2012, and had solo shows at Paradise Row, London, and at Traffic, Dubai, as well as participated in a group show at the Royal College of Art, London, as one of eight finalists for the MOP CAP 2011 prize.