Friday, May 30, 2014

Tehran’s Surrealistic Muralist

"Life Cycle" by Mehdi Ghadyanloo

“Never underestimate the power of colors and how they can bring life to old walls and buildings,” remarks a correspondent for Iran’s PressTV in an April 2012 report on the increasing ubiquity of urban artwork on the streets, walls, and façades of Tehran. While Iranian municipalities have long devoted so-called resources to “urban beautification” projects such as public parks and massive murals promoting patriotism and religious solidarity, the past decade has seen a substantial rise in both the prevalence and popularity of creative street art, both commissioned and independent.

Iranian artists have spent years transforming Tehran’s banal cityscapes of graying concrete and cracking plaster into vibrant and innovative public spaces bursting with color, imagination, and vision through sculpture, painting, graffiti, and tile and metal work. Where there were once mostly looming murals of religious leaders and martyred soldiers, Ajam Media Collective editor Rustin Zarkar writes, “Iranian streets have been increasingly decorated with classical poetry, mosaic patterns, landscapes, and an array of other images with roots in the traditional Iranian arts and experimental urban design.”

Four years ago, while on a trip to Iran, I took a stroll down Enghelab Avenue to visit some bookshops near the University of Tehran. Above the bustling sidewalks and traffic-jammed streets was an unremarkable building – like so many drab, imposing edifices in the capital erected in the middle of last century as part of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s modernization scheme - that nevertheless demanded attention. Huge walls were consumed by a colorful mural quite unlike the usual fare of revolutionary heroes and war memorials seen around town. I took a photo:

(Photo Credit: Nima Shirazi)

This was the work of artist and designer Mehdi Ghadyanloo, whose surrealistic murals combine elements of René Magritte, Giorgio de Chirico, M.C. Escher, Salvador Dalí, and many others. Ghadyanloo, who is only 33 years old, has been tripping out Tehran’s empty walls since 2006 as part of the city’s beautification project – promoted heavily for the past eight years by the managing director of the Tehran Beautification Organization, Seyed Mohammad Javad Shooshtari. To date, it is said that Ghadyanloo, who studied art and drawing in college and acquired a Master’s degree in animation, has produced over 100 murals. He even teaches a course on mural art at Tehran’s Soodeh University.

“My work in animation brought me to storytelling and exposed me to surreal short animations which really inspire the visual language which I use in my large scale urban murals today,” Ghadyanloo explained last year in an interview with the Young Persian Artists blog. He added:
The city is an architectural mishmash with buildings often having only one façade and the other three just left blank and grey. This doesn’t make for a beautiful city but it is a great environment for mural work. I think the municipality really felt the need to bring some cohesion or at least colour to the often confused and smog-smeared architectural face of the city.
Lately, Ghadyanloo’s amazing work has been gaining wider attention in the American press. Just this week, the Huffington Post described his whimsical images as “exaggerated dream sequences,” depicting “gravity-defying figures and portholes to other dimensions, all from altered perspectives that meld sky and structure.”

Though his large-scale municipal work is funded by the city of Tehran, Ghadyanloo identifies with the independent street art scene in Iran. He told HuffPost, “Graffiti is illegal here in Iran, like in many other countries, so graffiti artists in Tehran work at nights. We have very good underground street artist [network].”

Check out some of his work below and at the links above:




"Emdad Khodro"

"Childhood Dreams"

"Folded Walls"

Below is a short video featuring some of Ghadyanloo’s artwork:

Video created by Az Kolexion ‘E London (AKL)


Originally posted at Muftah.


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