Aydeen Aghdashloo (Iranian, B. 1940)
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Aydeen Aghdashloo (Iranian, B. 1940)

Memories Of Annihilation

Aydeen Aghdashloo (Iranian, B. 1940)
Memories Of Annihilation
signed and dated 'Aydin 2010' (lower left of left panel); signed, dated and titled 'Aydin Aghdashloo 2010 Memories of Annihilation' (on the reverse of both panels)
oil on canvas; diptych
each: 78 x 54½in. (199 x 138cm.)
overall: 78 X 109in. (199 x 276cm.)
Painted in 2010 (2)
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Lot Essay

Memories of Annihilation is the most famous and historically the longest series of Aghdashloo's works. It initiated with the appropriation of the portraits of Renaissance masters before the Islamic revolution and continued with borrowed pictures from Timurids and Safavids miniatures thereafter. Regardless of the extraordinarily superb technique, Memories of Annihilation embodies the artist's overall aesthetic vision and approach, and somehow, is a reminiscence of the days in which the noble values could not withstand, and destruction and ruthlessness had no limit; the time, as the artist put it: "in whose putrid air any angel would wither in a blink and turn to ash."

From "creation", Aydin Aghdashloo reaches "destruction". He emulates all the subtle brush touches, fine hues and nuance of the form down to the last details, so that nothing is neglected regarding the superb quality of the classics. A noble and precise reproduction that associates the magnificence of classicism with its innocence in the epoch of annihilation of long-standing values. But all that makes him zealous to such reproduction lies under an objective, which is its destruction and this makes his art a warning for a disaster. It is contrary to the inaccurate commenting of those critics who tend to see his work as a sheer illustration.

Aghdashloo is so fascinated by the fabulous days of the past that instead of expressing his personal view on them, simply feels obliged to praise them. His narrative of classism is neither symbolic nor formalist, but a mere reflection of a charm and fascination, which is more of a post-modern nostalgia. He acknowledges that he is not delighted by his technical mastery to impress his spectator. If so, there would remain only a kind of meditation to be achieved through painting. This is yet another incentive that justifies his ironic subversive language.

Based on their historical value, portraits and miniatures suggest a classic quality and a metaphysical ontology, whereas their reproductions are simply physical and material objects: a crumpled or torn paper, a broken bowl or scribbled picture and a torso with his/her head covered by a bag with no chance to breathe. Therefore, the viewer sees two kinds of paintings from two different worlds: a work with mythical and totemic values, and the other, an objective picture with a palpable existence.

From another point of view, one can think of the artist's performance as a kind of self-destruction. So, his behaviour is much a self-flagellation rather than an elegy for the death of beauty. If not, he could simply use mechanical techniques of reproduction, rather than spending too much time on depicting details, and then easily destroy them as a Dadaist gesture. Aghdashloo's diptychs, in one of which a portrait is completely painted and in the other the same face is first painted and then destroyed, again prove the idea that he sees the process of creation with all its troubles, or perhaps its joy, as a meditating performance which might be seen as catharsis. Dissolved in his creation, the artist uses its destruction as a way to express his rebellion against collapse of values and death of his ideals. In this case, the aim of his destructive conduct is not the art object, but perhaps his own self.

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