Morteza Zahedi, The Pale Twins, 2012, Bronze, H: 46 cm.

Morteza Zahedi as Homo Ludens, the Artist and His Toys

Zahedi's exhibition display cases in preparation for an art fair presentation.

Four Morteza Zahedi display cases, top view.

Morteza Zahedi display, top view.

Preparing Vivid Ecstacy display for Art Fair presentation.


XVA Gallery
Building 7
DIFC Gate Village
+ 971 4 358 5117
Morteza Zahedi, Toy Story
March 19-April 30, 2012


Morteza Zahedi is a unique creator, a creator who travels between apparently opposing universes, and whose surprising discourse on the firm foundations of solid and extensive training in the visual arts. Just as every human being is made up of different “I”s, Morteza is a compound of multiple heteronyms within the confines of a single one; the one who signs his name, who hides behind his face and rolls out an impressive array of voices, with a no less impressive variety of resources.

Travelling through Morteza’s work is like travelling through an exotic garden full of shapes, colours and sensations, reminding us faintly of the remote territories of childhood and at the same time surprising us at every step with unknown and evocative stimuli.

For a while now, I have been in awe of the work of this prolific and versatile creator, and all this time he has never stopped surprising me. Behind every work there is a different landscape, a new way of seeing and perceiving the world around us.

In this new display of his talent, Morteza shines a light on our senses, using the energy of the clash of two opposing worlds, with a provocative and thoughtful attitude in his use of the raw material of fun: “toys.”

In this series of material transformations based on the objects which give meaning and shape to “play,” Morteza places us on the field of battle between two philosophical concepts often associated with the world of art, a confrontation of tensions between the Apollonian and the Dionysian, between two opposing ways of seeing life. Morteza shows us the rhetorical struggle between Apollo and Dionysus.

Apollo, god of youth, beauty and the arts, against Dionysus, god of wine and harvests, feasting and excess, drunkenness, music and passion. Apollo, who for Nietzsche is also the god of light, clarity and harmony, representing balance, temperance and form, against Dionysus, the god of confusion, deformity, chaos and the instincts.

Through “play” — the builder of the stories of the “toy” to be played with — Morteza proposes finding meaning in the meaninglessness of existence, confronting two opposing views of the universe through art, irony and biting wit. He embodies the eternal struggle between a perception of reality full of light and beauty, and the other side of the coin: an instinctive, irrational and biological perception which takes its shape from the manifestation of corporeality.

In the midst of this polarised tension, Morteza acts as an arbiter, decreeing the rules of the game and establishing the truism of all competition, that in a duel, one can win or lose. In this confrontation, the artist does not take a side, letting the combatants display their weapons and show themselves with the vulnerability of nakedness, because it is in this space where the different strategies are played out, and we can see each of the participants, Apollo and Dionysus, as they really are.

Morteza, without making value judgements, uses the plasticity of hand to hand combat, of the beauty of confrontation, the seduction of conflict, to show the hidden face of both combatants and uncover their virtues and flaws. There are no good guys and bad guys, no winners and losers; what we find is a complex and multifarious universe of attitudes and perceptions which is shown in the expressive tension of each piece, in each assemblage, in each of these new toys which no longer serve the game for which they were created, and now serve interpretation and analysis.

Thus, the toy becomes the mediating element of the discourse, and the reflective amplifier of the message.

It is quite an achievement to give expressiveness and a critical character to something as bland as a toy.

Toys, those supposedly inoffensive objects which are made for entertainment, but which go beyond that innocent purpose to weave a mesh of utilitarian servitude underlying the foundations of the consumer society, and which shamelessly show how the high mass of capitalism is supported on the key values of success, power, competitiveness and individualism, in many cases consolidating the extreme values of the reigning neoliberealism of western societies. These toys, which are almost all “teaching materials for the ideology of do¬mination, encouraging aggression, force, individualism and fear,” as Patricia Ehlrich affirms, are used by Morteza, after stripping them of their utilitarian content and conserving their full symbolic value, to show the weaknesses of their arguments. Morteza makes use of metamorphosis, transmutation, mutilation, assemblage and the arbitrary reconstruction of parts to subvert the communicative nature of the toys, making apparent their contradictory doctrines. And if, like Italo Calvino, we can conceive play as “the great driver of culture”, or as Hans-George Gadamer defined it, “the way of being of the work of art itself”, we can enjoy the interpretative channel opened by each of the pieces in this exhibition, and enjoy the grotesque and deformed journey of reality through the mirrors and reflections offered us by Morteza.

Art, play and culture, all in one. Art, play and culture brought to us thanks to the concise and skilful interpretation of the hands and mind of Morteza Zahedi.

Let’s play!

Isidro Ferrer is a Spanish illustrator and graphic designer.

Morteza Zahedi, Untitled, 2011, Mixed media on paper.


Morteza Zahedi, Staring at a Group of White Geese, 2012, Bronze, H: 45 cm.