Siavash Talaei was born in Tehran in 1980 into a creative, artistic family.
Through his paintings, he expresses a sophisticated and nuanced experience of life in Iran, creating a consistent body of work that draws on a surprisingly wide range of influences, from his childhood in post-Revolutionary Tehran to his long training in Classical and Renaissance Art in Florence Academy.
In this exhibition, Talaei presents a new series of portrait paintings of fictional figures from an uncertain history. These figures have an oppressive and stifling stillness and are painted on fine primed canvas which hides the brush strokes. His palette is muted and drawing dominates the painting, with the mechanical process of their production made quite visible. The ‘hidden’ brush strokes intentionally carry no emotional or expressive impact. The viewer is drawn into a contrived pictorial world and left critical of possible schematic notions and suggested narratives – a world disturbingly populated with images familiar but unknown, in stark contrast to our comfortably familiar surroundings.
Each painting is constructed from multiple different art-historical images. His portraits carry the influences of his Tehran childhood, drawing on a visual vocabulary enriched by a wide variety of aesthetic inspirations ranging from the ancient sculpture of Mohenjodaro to popular television programs like Star Trek. Working over the past decade, the artist has refined and developed his visual universe by using and juxtaposing these eclectic elements. The result is a rich canvas of robust but uncertain figures who effortlessly hide the truth whilst being happily unaware of their false reality. A prime example is the grand figure of the old man with unseeing eyes who seems unaware of his failure as a leader or philosopher.
Talaei’s paintings carry a suggestion of doubt about both his self-image and worldview, as well as his faith in the future. It brings to mind Giacometti’s statement: “I have the impression or the illusion that I make progress every day. That motivates me.”
Talaei stays loyal to his own vision and steadfastly ignores any fashionable aesthetic trends in the market, intentionally making no effort to satisfy the viewer with visual pleasure. His work gives expression to personal defense mechanisms, articulating his acceptance of doubt, wherein the experience of uncertainty transcends being a mere threat and instead becomes the precondition to his freedom. By avoiding direct engagement with ideas of ‘progress’ or political narrative, he creates works which are effectively expressionless, thus sidestepping competitive confrontations with other artists.
— Shahpour Pouyan