Sophia Contemporary is proud to present ‘Hunting the Light’, the Iranian-American artist Reza Derakshani’s second solo show with the gallery following their successful inaugural exhibition of his work. ‘Hunting the Light’ will feature twelve new works demonstrating Derakshani’s continued quest for a visual language that bridges Iranian artistic traditions with Western contemporary and abstract inclinations. On view from January 26 through March 10, 2018, the exhibition will include new works from three of Derakshani’s ongoing series: ‘Hunting,’ ‘Garden Party,’ and ‘Shirin and Khosrow.’ The new paintings in the series continue in the trademark vivid and expressive style of Derakshani’s earlier works, and are executed in oil on canvas.
The ‘Hunting’ series refers to ancient Persian manuscript painting depicting hunting scenes in the Royal Court of the Iranian Shah. In what has become his signature technique, Derakshani abstracts these scenes and expands what was traditionally the subject of miniatures onto large canvases. The exhibition will feature four previously unseen works from this series.
The ‘Garden Party’ series portrays traditional scenes of idyllic Persian gardens which are regarded in Persian culture as a metaphor for heaven and the afterlife. While garden parties are often pictured in Persian art, Derakshani’s dynamic brushstrokes reveal the influence of textured surfaces from Western abstract art movements. ‘Hunting the Light’ will include four new paintings from the ‘Garden Party’ series.
Finally, the ‘Shirin and Khosrow’ series deals with the tragic romantic tale of two lovers featured in the Persian Shanameh (Book of Kings), Iran’s most important collection of tales and poems. This narrative, originally composed in the 10th century, is considered a major inspiration for Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ In the four new paintings from this series, Derakshani continues his investigation of this tale as an important source of creative influence for both Eastern and Western artistic practices.
These three acclaimed series constitute the foundation of the artist’s practice and have constantly been conceptually and aesthetically reinvented and reinterpreted by the artist throughout his career. In these new works, Derakshani continues to fuse Eastern artistic traditions and contemporary art movements from the West, building an idiosyncratic oeuvre at the confluence of civilizations. Renowned for his bold and dynamic use of colour, the artist’s subject matter is reminiscent of the rich artistic traditions of Persian miniature painting and calligraphy, while the abstract use of vibrant colours reveals the artist’s spiritual inspiration grounded in the millenary tradition of Persian poetry.
Derakshani became engrossed in Abstract Expressionism while living in New York and was soon associated with the revival of painting in the USA and Europe in the 1980s through the Neo-Expressionist style. While being loosely affiliated with the movement and active in New York artistic circles with fellow artists and friends Francesco Clemente, Shirin Neshat, Alessandro and Cy Twombly, the experience of emigration led Derakshani to reconnect with his Iranian roots. After experimenting with pure abstraction, the artist devised his personal artistic style blending abstract and figurative elements from both Eastern and Western cultures. This synthesis materialises beyond the visual impact of the works, notably in the socio-political themes that Derakshani explores. In this exhibition he brings together nostalgic reflections on the history of his Iranian identity with contested notions of migration, displacement, and modernity.