22 January - 12 February 2016

Ab-Anbar announces Behjat Sadr: Trace through the Black, a comprehensive solo exhibition spanning over four decades of the renowned Iranian modernist painter's oeuvre, which will take place at both Ab-Anbar and Aria galleries.


Behjat Sadr: Trace through the Black explores her artistic and intellectual heritage, with archival material alongside, and presenting a rare selection of masterpieces from her early debate with “abstraction informelle” in the 1950s, to her experimentations around organic forms, trace making and hallucinatory networks of lines throughout the 1960s and 1970s, up until her “collage” years throughout the (inner) exile and the irrepressible return to her world of futuristic nostalgia.


Sadr is regarded as one of Iran's most influential and radical Modern painters, due to her abstract paintings of paradoxical traces that blend luxuriant nature with the sharp-edged industrial. Sadr developed this signatory language in the 1950's, bringing together European Modernism and a modernity in Iran. Her paintings obsessively try to overcome the boundaries separating the abstract and the figurative, resulting in explorations of material and texture.  A pioneer of the visual arts in Iran, she was one of the first women artists and professors to appear on the international biennales scene in the early 1960s. Sadr offers the singular testimony of a nascent cosmopolitan modernity that emerged in Tehran, Rome and Paris, in cities where she studied and exhibited, embodying an extraordinary fusion of work and life.


Accidental mark-making, random effects and gestural dimensions were all incorporated throughout her life's work, with an emphasis on the recurring 'tree trunk' as prominent theme symbolising the ways in which nature is being transformed by industry. For Sadr, creating shapes and colours, arranging them and seeing how a misalignment and an accident, can transform an expected thing into a wonderful surprise. A playful approach always adhered to in her quest for revealing and concealing light, shadow and seeing things develop before her eyes, under the palette knife, to observing colours react, eventually understanding that this was an echo of her memories of the past, akin to a dance, an incantation or music.


The influence and legacy of Behjat Sadr as artist, teacher and pioneer of women's art in Iran and internationally, is a result of her commitment to introducing new ideas to painting through her impressionist-gestural approaches. An approach which led to creating canvases with serene or violent marks on surfaces that allowed for an exploration between the artist's body and its movement around the surrounding floor space. This performative approach to painting was one she described as 'an uncontrollable urge to put her canvases on the floor allowing for the making of larger moves, and offering a greater control over gestures'.