Farhad Ahrarnia | "Something for the Touts, the Nuns, the Grocery Clerks and You"
8 Feb - 2 Mar 2017
As in his previous pictorial series, Ahrarnia references such qualities of the Russian Avant-Garde who greatly influenced the art and architecture of mid 20th century Iran, a cultural extension of the 19th century “Great Game”. Ahrarnia’s interest in exploring the Khatam marquetry as a mark-making medium combines an aesthetic tradition and applies it to seminal 20th century Modernist works. Ahrarnia considers the Khatam a mathematically generated self-referential process, in line with 20th century Modernist notions. Applying traditional materials and craftsmanship he uses Modernist and Constructivist paintings as a blueprint from which to lay out his Khatam mosaics, emphasizing the engagement of the modern with the traditional, the decorative with the scientific, and embedding this entanglement of various cultural sensibilities into one radiant surface. He presents a selection of Khatam works based on the sparse compositions of Max Bill, El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich.
Ahrarnia’s latest series entitled Something for the Touts, the Nuns, the Grocery Clerks and You begins outside of the atist's studio, in the markets of Shiraz, Esfahan, Mashhad and Tehran. As a performative act, the artist has been collecting discarded packaging cardboard boxes from local businesses over the last few years, to form and compose a visual and textual archive.
Ahrarnia reads these boxes through their logos and brands as well as their individual journeys. The sculptural physicality, constructed shapes and textual details of each box allude to the modern aesthetic values of Russian Constructivists and Suprematists, encapsulating the artist's continued interest in Modernity and the changing byproducts of Modernization in both global and regional contexts.
The variation of fonts and graphics sensibilities visible on their stem from early to mid-20th century modern advertising codes which were influenced by the Russian Avant-Garde and were applied universally. Yet the usage of fonts in both Farsi and English lend and create a unique set of variations of incongruous usage of signs, languages and aesthetics which in turn reflect the dynamics of a society and her cultures in a constant state of flux and becoming.
Ahrarnia takes these boxes apart and then works with a local artist to paint circular-shaped gilded illuminations, known as tazhib, around specific parts of the boxes. Tahzib was traditionally applied around historically important and highly valued religious and devotional texts as a . In these works, the application of Tazhib has been "mis-appropriated" and is adopted as a decorative and celebratory device to to raise the significance and cultural value of the found objects.
Since sanctions have been lifted after 36 years of embargo on Iran, the country’s historical position as a manufacturing plant, with much industry, has been brought to light. Through his cardboard series, the artist examines the advancing formation of rapid and aggressive consumption patterns across Iran and new possibilities of soft power through trade and commerce.