Morteza Darehbaghi’s works unite science of order, art of spontaneity - GulfToday

Morteza Darehbaghi’s works unite science of order, art of spontaneity

Morteza 1

A viewer reads a text at the exhibition.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Iranian contemporary artist Morteza Darehbaghi whose works titled The Homecoming of Cypresses (2018 – 2023) unfolded in an exhibition at Foundry Downtown (Jan. 10 – Feb. 9) says that “an abstract search for man and nature structured my ideas as regards the immediate surroundings. It motivated me to brush my “a priori” knowledge with imagination, depicting the pastoral man in his innocence and liveliness, thus incorporating nature into man, who is part of it, and belonging to nature.”

This idea characterised his earliest paintings. The image of a light, luxuriant atmosphere of ancient eras prompted him to search for them; it was an unconscious drive behind all his artistic attempts. “A great yearning for the past traditions and ancient civilisations was responsible for the emergence of certain motifs and elements, such as fretwork, figures of Persian painting and geometric pictures,” he says.

His works in this period are marked by the use of geometrical configurations, level and colour planes, and a tendency towards amplification. An interest in tradition remained with him all the time – the haunting was so persistent that it permeated even his conceptual works. Religious signs and symbols, but seen through a modern eye, all arose from the same devout and traditional notions he entertained. He was seeking to link the past to the future across the present.

Morteza 3  Colourful motifs define these works.

His current work reflects the dynamic nature of the environment, acknowledging the absence of fixed laws in nature and the perpetual creation of new orders. The geometric order of the cityscape, with its streets, buildings, and waterways which offers both security and monotony, is a theme explored via repetition in Darehbaghi’s art. The fusion of primitive motifs, rug patterns, and tile works within his pieces, as was seen at the exhibition, serves as a means to break free from geometric monotony, infusing unexpected beauty into structured patterns. Traditional motifs drawn from nature, in Darehbaghi’s objets d’art, are a departure from the tedium of geometry. The results create a bridge between order and the wild, formless aspects of existence.

Darehbaghi seeks to liberate emotions from the constraints of patterns, transcending the dualities of beauty and the not-so-beautiful. His works, particularly those which were found in Foundry Downtown, showcased the intertwining of three aspects, namely, the free, geometric and pattern-based. It showed the artist’s intricate relationship with the surrounding world and the dynamic interplay of order and spontaneity.

According to contemporary art specialist Janet Rady, Darehbaghi uses his paintings to explore the connection of man to the natural world and his own deeply rooted sense of, and bond with, Iranian traditional culture and heritage. “Conscious of the fact that no-one can objectively interpret the past however, he modulates this impossibility through a contemporary personal prism of elegiac creativity,” she says.

Morteza 2  Morteza Darehbaghi is a contemporary artist.

This duality, according to Rady, has often manifested itself in the breaking up of the picture plane into two distinct contrasted sections. One part is committed to a strictly defined composition, often using a single block of luxuriant colour with heritage specific linear motifs and geometric configurations, and the other playfully completed with loosely executed, energetic abstracted gestures. In his earlier series, emblematic birds or animals and vestiges of historic human figures featured prominently, symbolising his affinity to nature and tradition. In time, however, these distinct forms became subsumed in more ephemeral representations, she notes.

Osborne Samuel Gallery, London, which has exhibited Darehbaghi’s works, has also commented on the binary.  “There is a yearning for the past traditions and ancient civilisation, manifesting itself in his use of colours and motifs which permeates his conceptual work,” the gallery says, underlining that Darehbaghi is part of the young generation of artists who, following social upheavals, war and crises, are trying to materialise their ideas. “This generation expresses itself in a unique personal fashion using signs and symbols, seen through a contemporary eye.”

“Here was a young painter,” recalls Alison Collins, former owner of The Majlis Gallery Dubai, “whose work was readily recognisably as being in the Iranian Tradition but was taking the movement to new heights visually and intellectually. His visits across the small expanse of water that separates Iran from the Southern Gulf, served as a stimulus to explore the ties between the two regions, the shared architecture, traditions, cultures and the very waters that not only separates but also joins them … Darehbaghi explores the juxtaposition of tradition with modernity with the confidence of a mature painter but with the humility of one who is still expanding his visual cognisance.”

The artist has had an illustrious academic and display and sale career. He has also won numerous awards. He did his BA (Hons) Art (1991-1995) at Azad University, Tehran, and received his Diploma in Art in 1987-1991 from the Plastic Art School, Tehran. He has shown his works in Iranshahr Art Gallery and Etemad Gallery, Tehran; Meem and Majlis Gallery, Dubai; Hermitage Gallery, Washington DC; and Rica Gallery, Stockholm, among others. His awards include First Place at the 3rd Islam World Biennial, Tehran (2004); First Place at the 4th Biennial Painting, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (1997); First Place at the 1st National Student Exhibition Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (1993) and First Place at the 2nd International Flower and Plant Exhibition, Tehran (1993). His works have figured in auctions by Christie’s Dubai (2011); Bonhams Dubai (2008, 2009); and Cornette de Saint Cyr Auction, Paris (2009).

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