An androgynous figure, semi-human and semi-monster stands proud on a dark red background, seemingly staring straight at the viewer, in an attempt to perhaps intimidate him. His well-built and dominant torso with protruding bones and inflated muscles contrasts with his thin and elongated neck while his face, deprived of any attributes aside two dark holes indicating his eyes, is heart-shaped and appears rather delicate. Filled with contrasts and surrealistic attributes, Bahman Mohassess' figure exists in an invented world, at crossroads between reality and fiction.
A reclusive artist who mingled with only a few peers, Mohassess constantly fought his own demons through life, art and poetry. Known for his dreamlike compositions of semi-human, semi-abstracted figures, he was passionate about Antiquity with its concepts of fragments, waste, ruins, but he also explored the art of the Renaissance and reflected upon the themes of Eros and Pathos throughout his art and career.
A dedicated and passionate artist, writer, poet and a celebrated translator of literary works, Bahman Mohassess was a distressed artist who burned and destroyed a great number of his paintings, collages, drawings and sculptures, leaving behind only a handful of works. Other works created before the Revolution were intentionally destroyed by officials as they were said to be decadent and socially provocative. Trained as an apprentice in the atelier of Seyyed Mohammed Habib Mohammedi in Tehran, Mohassess enrolled at the Fine Art Academy in Tehran in the 1950s, but rarely attended classes, preferring to them the gatherings of the Cockfight art and culture society. A progressive artist at heart, he took part in the avant-garde trends of the Iranian art society early in his life, but his move to Italy changed the artist forever.
When in Rome, Mohassess attended classes at the Fine Art Academy then returned to Tehran temporarily, a time during which he was invited to participate to the Venice, Sao Paulo and Tehran Biennales and directed plays, including Pirandello's Henry IV at the Goethe Institute and Ghandriz Hall in Tehran. In 1968, Mohassess eventually returned to Rome and lived between his hometown and the Italian capital until his passing in 2010.
The present work, a captivating composition from 1966 that was until recently kept in the private collection of one of Mohassess' dear Italian friends, has the surrealistic features that the artist discovered in the metaphysical compositions of artists such as Giorgio de Chirico. When Mohassess settled in Italy following the coup against Mossadegh in 1953 and the Cultural Revolution that followed, he was escaping the wave of censorship in Tehran; Italy became his second home and Italian arts were his passion, although his works revealed until his death his attachment to the Iranian history and culture.
The anatomy of the surrealist character creates a sense of disarray and disturbance that are typical of Mohassess' style. The haunting figure is depicted like on a theatre stage, in an attempt for a visual monologue that is nonetheless made impossible as the absence of a mouth forces him to remain silent. Despite the hostile and menacing appearance of the figure and his imposing stature, the creature is forcefully harmless. The figure thus appears as a metaphor for the artist's anguish within the contemporary society as Mohassess himself seems equally incapable of expressing himself.
Captivating and enigmatic, the dreamlike composition is reminiscent of the paintings of the metaphysical artists De Chirico and Carlo Carr and it undeniably epitomises what Mohassess is best at. He creates a mythical composition, bathed in surrealist light and sensitivity, yet captures the essence of humanity and alludes to the timeless struggles of the society. From his sought-after series of mythical figures, the present work is a charming rediscovery that carries the weight and splendor of Mohassess' acclaimed signature style.