Aritst Ghassem Hajizadeh in front of his works at the Recalling the Future: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Art exhibition.

LONDON – The new Recalling the Future: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Art exhibition at SOAS, University of London should make a few of its visitors sit up and take note. Things are not quite as we had expected them. The 29 artists in this show, guest-curated by Aras Amiri, David Hodge, Hamed Yousefi and Rozita Sharafjahan, aim to challenge assumptions about Iranian art, shaking up the basic conception of the country’s modern canon. The artists reject notions of “Iranian-ness” as a fixed, timeless entity and investigate the social and historical construction of identity. A variety of media is explored in this exhibition: photography, painting, sculpture and installations that attempt to re-route ideas and perceptions.

Already the Financial Times and other press have seized upon the significance of these statements and encourage the public to view what is currently coming from the internal voices of a nation.

Artist Khosrow Hassanzadeh in front of his work, Prostitute at the Recalling the Future: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Art exhibition.

Not all the works succeeded for me; some were more articulate than others and the socio-political theme of the show drew the attention inexorably towards the more expressive elements. Mahmoud Bakhshi’s work on Iran’s boundaries – slightly reminiscent of Grigorian’s medium – was a bold and arresting statement, while the black-and-white photo-journalism of Jalali in the narrow gallery upstairs were some of the best. Equally eye-catching were Khosrow Hassanzadeh’s works which regrettably, could not have been displayed as intended due to the ceiling-height required, but which nevertheless made a strong impact. Ghassem Hajizadeh’s satirical social portraits stood out in their compositional and witty elements, and the neon route of Khomeini’s revolutionary journey proved a highlight.

Roots of modernism, contemporary realities – these are all themes of the moment where the Middle East is concerned. Anyone with interest in the region will find eye-opening moments at SOAS’s Brunei Gallery over the next few weeks.