Ahmad Amin Nazar, Untitled 2012-23, 2012, acrylic on paper, 150 x 250 cm.

Ahmad Amin Nazar's Animated Figures Buffeted by Winds of Turmoil

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Al Quoz
Street 8, Al Serkal
+ 971 4 323 5052
Ahmad Amin Nazar. Salto
December 10-January 10, 2013

This exhibition represents a novel direction for painter Ahmad Amin Nazar. In his new body of works, executed on large format paper, Amin Nazar moves away from recurring myths, heroes, divs and demonic theatrics that have often inhabited his paintings to date. Bold rapid brushstrokes dash off with power, urgency and little hesitation to delineate contours of bodies intertwined and animated in dynamic choreographies that float mid-air in space. Their presence in a void is emphasised by empty space. 

Reminiscent of Renaissance and Old Master primi pensieri (first thoughts), Amin Nazar employs his deft brushstrokes freely and intuitively. Painterly gestures animate the surfaces with assured spontaneity and a determined instinctive flair. Drips and spillages of paint are allowed to enhance the energy and urgency of style and the vivacity of figures. Rather than the mastery of topographic human anatomy, the execution of detailed sketches of muscles, tendons and other anatomical features through direct observation of models, Amin Nazar invents complex figurative poses through exercising his imagination. Renaissance master painters drafted their first free, expressive sketches in pen and brown ink as exploratory exercises of new ideas and compositions before moving onto painting a modello or oil sketch to be presented to commissioning patrons. Amin Nazar often thins his own acrylic paint to resemble such sepia-black ink. 

Further echoing the masters’ tradition, collectively, the works assemble as disegni for a single whole. Like building blocks of a single epic composition, the exhibition summarily resembles a collection of disegni fitting one single idea. Emphasizing the raw momentum of ideas in progress, Amin Nazar leaves barefoot prints and shoe scruffs on the papers where he has tread over them, spiriting the surface of the paper with his presence and evoking a certain intimacy between the surface and the spectator. Traversing traditions, the artist here simultaneously references late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Japanese painters like Katsushika Hokusai, who amongst many works of portraiture and landscape also depicted elaborate erotic encounters.


Across these large-scale compositions, Amin Nazar experiments boldly with the male form, albeit these figures are headless and missing hands and feet, and rendered ambiguously genderless. Contortions of the torsos and inhibiting limbs obscure genitalia. Despite intended ambiguities, masculine energy predominates in these pure studies of bodies in action. The figures wrestle, embrace, violate, battle, dance and dominate depending on which way each drawing is viewed. Amin Nazar painted them from all sides. The large paper sheets were laid onto his studio floor and worked on from above and all around. The artist is keen to exploit all ambiguity and to manipulate his audience with multiple readings. His signature is designed to be legible from three sides and small arrows indicate that each work (with two exceptions) may be hung and viewed from three different directions. Depending on the direction, each view presents a unique dynamic between the figures. A figure may appear to be assaulting or protecting another depending purely on the direction of view. Both figures may often appear suspended or in free fall. Across aggression-seduction trajectories, sensual rhythms play out against violent offensives and precarious fluctuations.

Central to the artist’s enquiry is the very intertwining of the figures, their inter-dependency, their symbiotic attachedness. In these intimate exchange wrestling becomes a metaphor for internal (self and its shadow) and external conflict and a background for elaborating aggression, eroticism, homo-eroticism, and the salto mortale - a giant leap into the unknown. In torsion, in suspension, the bodies are caught between the forces around us.

Amin Nazar (b. 1955, Iran) studied fine art in Tehran, and after eight years in Germany, on returning to Iran, began exploring relationships between miniaturist tradition and Iranian literature through etching. He belongs to a generation of Iranian artists who, due to historical circumstances, vanished in the midst of ideological, political, cultural and violent turmoil. Although tutoring younger generations at university and at home for many years, he has became profoundly reclusive, seeking refuge in his studio, and in his raw, instinctive expressions.


Ahmad Amin Nazar, Untitled (2012-25), 2012, Acrylic on paper, 250 x 150cm.

Ahmad Amin-nazar, Untitled 4, 2009, Ink on paper, 110 x 150 cm.

Ahmad Amin-nazar, Untitled 14, 2009, Ink on paper, 150 x 1000 cm.

Ahmad Amin Nazar's Reconsideration of Images from Shahnameh

Ahmad Amin Nazar, Untitled 11, 2009, Acrylic on paper, 110 x 150 cm.

Ahmad Amin-nazar, Untitled 5, ink on paper, 110x150 cm, 2009.

Ahmad Amin-nazar, Untitled 13, Acrylic on paper, 110 x 150 cm, 2009.


B 21 Art Gallery
Al Quoz 1
0097 1 (0)4 3403965
Ahmad Amin Nazar
The Centre Cannot Hold

February 10-April 10, 2010

Among the sweeping black lines that whip elegantly across Amin Nazar’s canvases, wrestlers and shadowy forms emerge. With a nod to Goya’s The Disasters of War, Amin Nazar creates carefully constructed vignette-like scenes. We see grotesque masks and the heads of demons atop Persian wrestlers engaged in a surreal battle. Delicate yet inflammatory bursts of paint seem to flash in the distance as if the lights of a distant battle are the only illumination.

In his first exhibition in Dubai, Ahmad Amin Nazar presents a collection of kinetic paintings that evoke a tradition in chaos. A master of line and form, the artist taught private drawing classes to a new generation of Iranian artists in the early 1990s, with Rokni and Ramin Haerizadeh as pupils who both cite the artist to be of major influence.

It’s as if we are watching the Persian miniature being dismantled before our eyes. The flat plane paintings often used to illustrate scenes from the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) — the epic poem that sits at the heart of Persian culture — are here made three-dimensional. Amin Nazar, also a skilled miniature painter, has introduced gravity into this two-dimensional world. The effect is disorientating, figures who once danced appear to tumble like bodies caught in the midst of an explosion.

The artist incorporates characters and figures from the Shahnameh such as Zahhak, notorious for the serpents that grow from his shoulders and are only satisfied by feeding on the brains of young boys. Zahhak appears repeatedly as a motif throughout these works as an ominous, blasted presence watching over the destruction around him. This figure — symbolic of a destructive and nihilistic sacrifice of youth — immediately draws parallels with the situation in Iran and the violence associated with the 2009 protests. Amin Nazar painted these works around the time of the protests and seems to point towards a dark and foreboding reality: something apocalyptic looms over these scenes amid a tumult of black paint. The collection builds to a vast, 10m wide piece where each character seems to fade into such an abyss.

Identifying the constant battle between good and evil that underpins Persian thought right back to pre-Islamic times, he cites Sedegh Hedayat, one of Iran’s most noted modern writers who concerned himself with this same duality, as a counterpart. Hedayat appears in the artist’s works, clad in a sharp suit and a confused expression, and the writer’s own Kafka-like prose seems to have some bearing on Amin Nazar’s narrative paintings.

Amin Nazar offers insight into a generation that preceded Iran’s new wave of artists. As one of the first to bring the tradition of Persian miniature painting into the destabilising sphere of Western thought, he captures a new vision of the miniature. Through powerfully wrought bodies caught in a snapshot of conflict, or mythological figures engaged with absurd symbols of modernity — a laptop, a mobile phone — we sense an artist struggling to equate a rich tradition with a volatile present.

Ahmad Amin-nazar, Untitled 3, ink on paper, 110x150 cm, 2009.