Ali Banisadr’s synaesthetic approach to painting begins with an internal sound that he describes as a “force that drives the whole painting and helps [him] to compose the work and pull everything together” (Ali Banisadr quoted in Ali Banisadr: One Hundred and Twenty Five Paintings, London, 2015, p.9). This initial sound allows the artist to delve fully into a sensation before externalising it onto a canvas. Translated as “into the middle of things” or “without preamble”, In Medias Res exemplifies this approach. The audience is thrown without mercy into an intoxicating mix of colour and brushstrokes before being gradually directed into its complex narrative. There is no refuge in a central focal point as the artist forces the viewer’s eye to scan across the work. This decentralising sensation before a canvas holds some parallels with futurism and abstract expressionism.
Born in Tehran in 1976, Ali Banisadr’s paintings deal with his memories of the Iran-Iraq war, and establish a visual order within a chaotic world (Boris Groys in Conversation with Ali Banisadr in ibid. p. 25). In light of this sentiment, it becomes clear that his canvases do not merely portray chaos. The exuberant brushstrokes are interrupted by hints of detail evoking layered narratives that constantly evolve through contemplation. Here, the influence of Persian miniatures on Banisadr’s painterly style reveals itself in pink, gold and lavender hues, and through the suggestion of figures. Some intricate details of the work betray a certain stillness, permitting the viewer a moment of repose before they become dissolved back into a visual feast of colour. As a result, In Medias Res becomes an unexpected liaison between dynamic sensation and controlled precision, capturing a constant flux of stillness and movement.
This disorientating but captivating painting envelops the senses and merits multiple interpretations. From the juxtaposition of stillness and movement comes that of tranquillity and tumult. The complexity of this imagery perhaps replicates the intensity of the artist’s childhood emotions of displacement, fear and loss which are especially evident in the concentration of colour in the lower section of the painting, before it gradually frees itself in an upwards trajectory. This is heightened by its lack of boundaries allowing fluid energies to traverse the painting, described by Robert Hobbs as “aesthetics of deterritorialisation” (Hobbs, ‘Ali Banisadr: Assaying the In-Between” in Ali Banisadr: One Hundred and Twenty Five Paintings, London, 2015, p. 18). As a result, this vibrant, abstract scene evokes a fusion of the artist’s past and the inescapable, immediate present. While the painting remains rooted in Banisadr’s personal experience of conflict, the ambiguity of its details and abstract forms reflect universal emotions and, consequently, open the terrain of the canvas to be personalised by its audience.
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