‘[My art] is based on three things: the history of myself, the history of our century, and the history of art’ —A. BANISADR
‘When I begin a painting, it is always based on an internal sound. As soon as I apply the brush, the sound begins, and I am able to compose the work based on the sounds I hear as I’m painting. It is the force that drives the whole painting and helps me compose the work and pull everything together’ —A. BANISADR
A kaleidoscopic vision of noise, colour and motion, Ali Banisadr’s Time for Outrage draws the viewer into a world of bewildering simultaneity. A near-cinematic explosion of line, gesture and form detonates across the canvas, refracting a carnal spectrum of red through its myriad planes. Bodies and beings leap out from its abstract depths, only to dissolve again in the blink of an eye. Sonic vibrations quiver upon the surface, raised to a deafening clamour and then banished to the brink of silence. For Banisadr, painting is fundamentally rooted in his experience of synaesthesia: a powerful conflation of sound and image that stems from his childhood in war-torn Iran. ‘The bombing, the air raids; I witnessed so many ruins and chaos everywhere’, he explains. ‘When the vibrations and explosions of the air raids occurred my mother recalls I would make drawings to try to make sense out of what was happening. And I think that stays with me even now, where I still see the world as this chaotic, potentially dangerous place. Trying to make sense out of it in a visual way is the only way I can understand’ (A. Banisadr, quoted in conversation with B. Groys, in Ali Banisadr: One Hundred and Twenty Five Paintings, London 2015, p. 25). Over time, Banisadr’s early drawings evolved into apocalyptic painterly battlefields, laced with hybrid visual references. Strains of Renaissance Venetian painting, Abstract Expressionism, Persian miniatures and Japanese woodblock prints shift in and out of focus, jostling for attention before receding into oblivion. With its constituent parts held perpetually in flux, Time for Outrage captures the seemingly eternal moment that reigns in the duration of a blast: a sense of time collapsing inwards on itself, of centuries replayed in a split second, and of the nameless clarity that emerges only in the very depths of chaos.
After leaving Iran with his family at the age of 12, Banisadr moved to California, where he initially immersed himself in the thriving graffiti scene of San Francisco. ‘I was also doing my own work in the studio and studying psychology, trying to make sense of what had been with me since I was a kid, of sound turning into colours and images’, he explains. ‘I would make drawings based on the sounds I was hearing – bombs, air-raid sirens, windows breaking, all kinds of vibrations. This world was my internal world ever since I was a kid, and I wanted to find a way to connect to it. It was a parallel world, one that appeared as dreams, as fragments of memory, or as hallucinations’ (A. Banisadr, quoted in interview with L. Wei, 6 February 2014, www.studiointernational.com/index. php/ali-banisadr-interview [accessed 3 January 2017]). Powered by an eclectic love of music – spanning opera and jazz to Radiohead and Daft Punk – Banisadr used painting as a means of tuning in to his own mental soundtrack. In doing so, he sought to visualise the way in which external events become internalised within the human psyche: as colour, as speed, as light, as time, as noise, as form, as shape. Filtered through multiple art-historical lenses, painting allowed him to ‘zoom in’ on these transformations: to slow them down, expand them and observe them in detail. As figuration warps into abstraction and vice versa, a new sense of lucidity begins to emerge. In the synesthetic tremors of the canvas, Banisadr captures the feeling of being ‘half-awake and half-asleep when everything, strangely enough, makes a great deal of sense’ (A. Banisadr, quoted in R. Hobbs, ‘Ali Banisadr: Assaying the In-Between’, in Ali Banisadr: One Hundred and Twenty Five Paintings, London 2015, pp. 9-10).