INSIDE IRAN: THE ART OF KHOSROW HASSANZADEH
AMSTERDAM, 15 OCTOBER 2006 —This autumn the Tropenmuseum presents a review of the oeuvre of Iranian painter Khosrow Hassanzadeh (b. 1963). As one of the few Iranian artitsts that are successful in the West, Hassanzadeh has deliberately chosen to live and work in Iran. His paintings focus on political and social developments in his country, and tie in intimately with his own personal experiences and vision. The Tropenmuseum show features a series of paintings about Hassanzadeh’s period as a frontline soldier during the Iran-Iraq war. These and other works can be seen until 7 January 2007 at the Parkzaal.
A former fruit seller and volunteer soldier, Khosrow Hassanzadeh cuts an unusual figure in Tehran’s elite art scene. Treating subjects as diverse as the Iran-Iraq war, murdered prostitutes, women in chadors and Iranian wrestlers, Hassanzadeh’s multi-layered, humanist works place individuals at the centre of things and examine harsh political realities.
His Iranian background is his principal inspiration: in his work he concentrates on events linked to the culture and recent history of Iran. Hassanzadeh does not avoid sensitive subjects in his art. Additional themes that are found in his paintings include the recent war against terrorism and the accompanying image of Iran from a Western perspective. Khosrow’s paintings and screen prints offer a visual commentary, at once personal and political, from inside Iranian society.
Khosrow Hassanzadeh: Selfportrait, 2004 From the series: Terrorist Screen print on canvas © Photo: Tropenmuseum Photo courtesy of Tropenmuseum
Khosrow Hassanzadeh’s work contains many references to Iran’s visual religious culture and the visual imagery of state propaganda. He works primarily with photography, collage, painting and mixed media, often layering contemporary images and photographs with figures drawn from Persian illuminated manuscripts and Farsi calligraphy. By using this mix of graphic techniques, painting and Photoshop, Hassanzadeh creates a visual idiom, almost like pop-art, with which he emphasises his vision. His idiosyncratic and critical analyses have made him little-loved by the Iranian regime. On the other hand, the fact that his work is mainly exhibited outside Iran despite its focus on contemporary Iranian society makes for an intriguing, though slightly uneasy relationship with the Western art world.
Five series of works by Hassanzadeh are featured in the Tropenmuseum exhibition. Terrorist (2004) is a series that began as a reaction to Bush’s declaration that Iran was part of an the Axis of Evil. By portraying himself and his family as ‘terrorists’ Hassanzadeh challenges the Western perception of the Islamic world. The medium Khosrow uses, screen print on canvas, refers to the religious propaganda of the Iranian regime. By adopting the same medium, while giving it a different content, Hassanzadeh criticises both Islamic and Western forms of propaganda. The series, which the Tropenmuseum has purchased, can be considered a declaration of independence; from the West and from Islamic radicalism.
Khosrow Hassanzadeh: Reyhan Hassanzadeh. 2004 From the series: Terrorist Screen print on canvas © Photo: Tropenmuseum Photo courtesy of Tropenmuseum
War (1998), a sombre series about the Iran-Iraq war, is diametrically opposed to the government version of events. The latter is characterised by colourful scenes eulogising and honouring martyrs. Heroes and pride are a long way off in Khosrow’s highly personal description of the Iran-Iraq war (1980 and 1988). A war in which he fought on the frontline and around a million people were killed.
Khosrow Hassanzadeh, 1998 From the series: War Mixed media This series refers to the Iran-Iraq war (1980 – 1988), where Khosrow Hassanzadeh fought on the frontline. About a million people were killed in that war. © Photo: Tropenmuseum Photo courtesy of Tropenmuseum
Other series presented in the museum are Prostitutes, Ashura and Pahlavan . The large size and colourful palette of his paintings reflect Khosrow’s vision and experiences relating to subjects and opinions in and about Iran.
Khosrow Hassanzadeh: Prostitutes, 2002 Painting on silk-screen print Police file photos of prostitutes that were published in the daily papers and served a serial killer, a self-declared “avenger” who had murdered a number of women, as orientation in the choice of his victims. © Photo: Haupt & Binder Photo courtesy of Tropenmuseum
A bilingual catalogue accompanies the exhibition (English and Farsi), entitled: Tehran Studio Works-The Art of Khosrow Hassanzadeh published by Saqi Books, London.
Inside Iran: A Retrospective of Khosrow Hassanzadeh 22 September 2006 – 7 January 2007 Tropenmuseum Linnaeusstraat 2 1092 CK Amsterdam The Netherlands Tel: (31) 20 568 82 00