Khonyagar, Khosrow Hassanzadeh

Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE
15 January – 28 February 2019

14-year-old Hassanzadeh got acquainted well with the technique of silkscreen-print while working at his textile printing shop. Thrilled about printing a Michael Jackson motif on his t-shirt, little did he know this technique will become an integral part of great bodies of artworks he will make later on as one of the most prominent artists of his country.

Young Hassanzadeh volunteered as a soldier in the bloody Iran-Iraq war which left an indelible mark on him and prompted him to create his first internationally recognized series “War, Life and Art”. Upon returning from the war, Hassanzadeh Studied Painting at Mojtama-e-Honar University and Persian Literature at Azad University, both in Tehran. As a traditional man raised in the traditional environment, Hassanzadeh was drawn to Iranian traditional paintings and Saqqakhaneh Movement, with his belief in Shia Islam and his passion for Persian poetry and calligraphy further influencing his work. He was also deeply inspired by the works of artists Klimt and Matisse.

While selling fruits at his family’s fruit shop, Hassanzadeh began drawing on large brown Kraft packaging paper. Today he continuous using this medium and gains immense pleasure out of making something as worthless as Kraft paper into an important and valuable object. Glamorizing the worthless as he calls it. Despite being advised to draw smaller works, Hassanzadeh made a point out of creating large murals and posters. He has stayed true to this practice till today.

Glancing through the catalogues of his work in the past two decades, it’s easy to notice the evolution of this artist’s incredible craft. “War” (1999) with its’ figure’s bodies wrapped in white long clothes morphed into “Chador” (2000), which is the long cloth Muslim women wear over their head that covers their entire bodies, leaving only their faces exposed. Next, he depicted women in “Ashura” (2001), one of Shia’s most revered religious ceremonies, followed by “Prostitutes” (2004) who were murdered by a serial killer in the religious capital of Iran. In “Terrorist” (2005), he portrayed himself and his family members as terrorists, questioning the concept of terrorism and how it’s conveyed internationally. “Pahlavans” the traditional Iranian wrestlers became the focus of his work for over a decade during which Hassazadeh introduced the medium of ceramic tiles into his work. Historically in Islamic art, religious manuscripts and images are painted on ceramic tiles and placed on the walls and domes of mosques and religious venues. Hassanzadeh has chosen this traditional medium to give importance to his characters stating that the impact of these people are as critical as their religious counterparts, honouring them with the importance and worth they deserve.

In his first solo exhibition at the 1×1 art gallery, Hassanzadeh has chosen to exhibit Khonyagars (singers and musicians). This time his oeuvre depicts some of the most prominent figures in the music history of Iran and the Arab world, all of which are authoritative in their genres and styles.

In the main work of the exhibition, embellished with jewels, he has depicted a tiara-wearing Ghamar, the first Iranian female singer who sang without a veil, Mahvash, the first woman to sing and dance daringly in front of groups of men, highly celebrated singer Marzieh, diva Delkash, Tar player Darvish Khan and many more. In the Arab Singers, a powerful image of Um Kolsoum, one of the most influential singers of the 20th century and Egypt, is singing centre stage, with Fairuz, the Jewel of Lebanon holding flowers on the right. Syria’s Farid Al Atrash, known as the Kind of Oud, and his beautiful sister singer Asmahan, as well as the most internationally famous Algerian singer Khaled, are also present amongst others.

While his Arab Singers have the warm and inviting backdrop of palm trees and the mysterious ever-lasting Pyramids of Egypt, Hassanzadeh’s Iranian Khonyagars are set on an exquisitely sensual backdrop of a banquet of miniature figures singing, dancing and being joyous, with the Persian chandelier hung right in the centre with symmetrical curtains on both side depicting the poetry of celebrated Persian poets Hafez, Saadi, as well as Shahnameh.

As always his works are a combination of images, painting, collage, silkscreen and mixed media. Shimmering under the spotlights, they are beautifully kitsch, flamboyant and nostalgic, just like Hassanzadeh himself who lights up the room with a kind of youthful and authentic verve unique to himself.

– Vida Heydari