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Rhythms and Shades
Lucinda H. Dunn

Describing himself as a ‘nomad dangerously in love with creativity’, Reza Derakhshani is an accomplished artist who has wandered into almost all the art forms: music, graphic design, calligraphy and visual art. But it is within contemporary painting that he has “experienced true liberation and fulfilment,” says the biography in his book.

A compilation of 11 years’ work, the first book of Reza Derakhshani’s painting was recently launched at Sotheby’s Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art Auction in London.

‘Selected works’, by Patrick Cramer Publisher (Geneva), covers 11 series of works, including the two auction pieces ‘Garden Party/The Blue Night’, which sold at £31,250 and ‘White Fig Black Fig Silver Fig Ruby Fig’, which fetched £39,650. 

Now 48, Derakhshani was born in Sangsar, a village in North East Iran, where he grew up in a black tent. His life took him to study and teach in the metropolises of Tehran and New York, where he stayed for 16 years, then to Italy and back to Iran. But his sensibility nurtured in his youth, peering at the moonlit constellations flooding through the holes in his tent has never left him.

While in America he came under the influence of Abstract Expressionism, introducing techniques and visual effects of textured layering into his work, as well as the bold use of colour as emotional expression. 

“Colour plays an important role in my work,” says Derakhshani. As a hybrid artist, he builds in another dimension: “and there is a relationship between the rhythm of music and colours”.

The spell in Tuscany Italy brought gold, silver and ochres into his work. But like the layering of his paintings, foreign influences have only added to their richness as opposed to diluting it.

For Derakhshani is “sensitive” towards the history of Iran - especially its culture - for which he carries a certain nostalgia. “All the time I find myself saying ‘What a pity!’ We our losing our history and culture.”

Iranian themes underpin the majority of his work. We see the pomegranate and figs trees, and the lovers Shirin and Khosrow emerging from beneath expressionist colour palettes. The Iranian veiled woman is reduced to openings of light on a black slab: she is constricted but present all the same.

However this experienced painter is less obsessed with subject matter than other contemporary Iranian artists: “My work is not about the issue of the day. And much of it is not political, because I hope it will remain. I really value the technical aspect and put a lot of time and energy into it.”

Bringing the tradition of ‘experiencing’ a Persian painting into the contemporary, his paintings demand close up, prolonged visual and tactile contact. As the art historian, Susan Babaie points out: “His work is not about the mere articulation of an idea for which one need not even see the work in order to get the idea”.  

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