Sophia Contemporary is pleased to announce the gallery’s second exhibition, a series of mixed media works and drawings by the artist Mehrdad Khataei in his first solo exhibition in London. The artist will present sixteen recent mixed media artworks and sixteen drawings from his ongoing Shadows series which depict the aftermath of an undefined catastrophe, using it as a basis to explore the tension between chaos and order which exists in society. Having experienced first-hand the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, Khataei interrogates the nature of the modern condition through his multi-layered images, aiming to reveal the shadowy part of humanity and throw into relief what he perceives to be the fine line between normality and insanity inherent within the structures of contemporary civilisation.
Within his artistic practice Khataei uses a variety of techniques, from charcoal, pencil and pastel to linocut, aquatint and drypoint printing. The artist explores the limits of his chosen media, experimenting to create his own contemporary visual language while at the same time retaining an essence of the Iranian artistic tradition in his use of pictorial space. Khataei sees the composition of his works as a microcosm of civilisation as a whole. The empty spaces between figures and object create a vacuum representing the erosion of social equality and stability. Through the use of montage and shifting perspectives, Khataei creates a disturbing sense of space within his works, alluding to the disturbance in one’s own personal and private space as technological advancements thwart the individual’s ability to control their own identity.
Voluminous heads and figures occupy the main space of Khataei’s large-scale images which are surrounded by various symbols and creatures all bearing the marks of an unnamed disaster; blots on foreheads suggest ulcerated skin, military figures in gas masks leer out of the shadows and there are suggestions of smoke and debris throughout. Imagery repeats itself throughout the works; electricity pylons, houses, clothing, x-rays, animals and severed body parts are all highly realistic and otherworldly. These shadowy and often part-formed
objects may imply destruction, but they also nod to the normality that existed before the catastrophe. Despite the desecration surrounding his central figures, Khataei’s draughtsmanship is such that the faces appear to be full of life, sadly observing the chaos surrounding them and demonstrating the artist’s belief in humanity’s capacity for resilience, even within the midst of a dystopia.
Mehrdad Khataei: Shadows will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introduction written by Alexander Borovsky, Head of the Department of Contemporary Art, the State Russian Museum.