Fear and Desire

April 19 - May 13 2024

Ghasem Hajizadeh

Press Release

O Gallery is pleased to present “Fear and Desire,” Ghasem Hajizadeh’s (b. 1947 Lahijan) first solo show with the gallery.


Drawing inspiration from the Qajar period, Ghasem Hajizadeh adds expressionism where it didn’t exist before, plays the naïve artist at times while he is very well capable and aware of “conventions” such as perspective and composition. Hinting at pop art, while touching the surface of neo realism, Hajizadeh doesn’t fit into any one category, while he is a little bit of everything. His canvases are striking combinations of drawing and painting, paper and canvas, resulting in multi-layered canvases that weave together references to personal events in the past.

Painting from old photographs, the scenes that he portrays seem to tell a story but the narrative is not always straightforward. He reframes the visual narratives of his subjects by exaggerating the “reality” of the photos he uses. Interested in historical, social contexts of the photographs, he stands as an independent witness, documenting what he wants, juxtaposing what he pleases and eliminating what doesn’t serve his image. Through his paintings, the second-hand circulation of old photographs creates the past but in the now.

The figures in his paintings tell us something simple yet profound about lust and fear. Contrary to what a photograph does, to capture and save a moment, it is the desire for the ephemeral that gives depth to Hajizadeh’s work. What is short lived, the lust so apparent in many of his works and the anxiety present in the way he portrays them.  The posture of the figures, their gaze and their arrangement in space and relationship to one another is of great importance.

In one of his works where a couple are portrayed on their wedding day, there is another man in the frame. The bride is looking down coyly; the groom is holding unto the bride’s arm with a very tight grip whilst leaning towards the other man, kissing him with what seems like blushed cheeks. What are we looking at here? Perhaps the desire to move forward with something or the fear of losing what’s at hand? While the three figures are united in their celebration, they are somehow disconnected as well.

In another work, the details of the dresses of the three men dressed as women, their jewelry and the adornments on their hair are so exquisite that you can feel the couture between your fingers and the lace slipping through. They have dressed up for just for this occasion, to have their photos taken at a photography studio, and Hajizadeh plays with such incidents very lightheartedly. The subjects’ eyes distinguish the facts, the one in the center is looking straight, while the other two are looking to the left, with their cigarettes pointing to the same direction, again another prop to complete their “pose”, hinting at the different possibilities in front of them.

Hajizadeh clearly takes pleasure in painting and want his viewers to as well. That is not to say he makes things easy. He employs an offbeat color palette that separates his work from anyone else. He might use a sharp orange for the flat background of one painting, making it more pop and of today, or use a detailed background with a hint of brown glaze to make it more nostalgic and of the past.  But more than being nostalgic images, the “every day” in Hajizadeh’s paintings is seasoned with something more grievous.


- Orkideh Daroodi

April 2023