Can One Narrate Time?: Avish Khebrehzadeh

14 - 19 September 2021

AB-ANBAR Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition by the critically acclaimed Iranian-American artist, Avish Khebrehzadeh at Cromwell place, London. The 23 works in Can One Narrate Time? includes a series of paintings inspired by the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Visconti - as well as one of Khebrehzadeh’s signature hand-drawn animations, Maskhara in 8 Emotions – projected onto a large ‘theatre’ painting. The exhibition is completed with a selection of 12 drawings (2008), which explore themes including time, identity and the relationship between humanity and the natural world.

Khebrehzadeh’s paintings, with their cast of enigmatic characters, irresistibly ignite and provoke our interest; creeping under the skin of the viewer to unsettle and work a dark magic to fire the imagination. They suggest elusive stories and shadowy strands of narrative both cinematic and buried within us, or as the writer Ben Okri so acutely observed, “They are one way time travellers and their mission here is to unsettle, to illuminate through spreading unease. They scatter depth-charge questions like a millennial sower.”(1).

Like Shakespeare’s fools, these characters exist in a world just beyond our ordered and rational experience. Utilising the unfamiliar and absurd ‘maskhara’ of the animation’s title, they uncover what is hidden to unmask the complexity of human psyche, “Sow(ing) time bombs in the sleeping terrain of men and women in the real unreal world.”(2)

Khebrehzadeh comments about her work; “A lot has been defined by my place of birth (Tehran,1969). Having lived a childhood in places around the globe and in Iran during the early days of the revolution and Iran-Iraq war has given a sense of "geographical disquiet" and restlessness to the layers of my work.

I have been exploring the reasons, ideas, and the effects of this modern nomadic life in my work. I’m interested in creating small perturbations in otherwise mundane common experiences, but with a slight disturbance in their presentation, which puts them in a drastically different light in the viewer’s mind--provoking their deeply buried unexplored feelings.

If the image is a ‘unit of narrative’(3) the animation ‘Maskhara in 8 Emotions’ is a kaleidoscope from which each turn of frame spools out a ‘story’ as beguiling, dark and bittersweet as any ancient fairy tale. Simply told in line with occasional washes of colour, we watch the unfolding story of a single character transformed by red painted hands which mark, gesture or obscure – covering eyes with fists – or with eyes which ‘weep’ black ink. We also see the same character visited by humming birds, ethereal dragonflies, flowers and a scurrying lizard.

We are left to ponder the 8 emotions and layers of concealment to the true self explored in Maskhara and our response to them; as Khebrehzadeh notes; “You wear a mask to liberate yourself from your own limitations or you wear a mask to be something or someone else, either way it's a desire for your own change

Citations: 1-3* Ben Okri, Seven Fuges