Fondation Behnam-Bakhtiar visits Ghalamdar at his Manchester studio to discuss his new works and upcoming projects in the coming year.
FBB. Talk to us about your practice and where you draw inspiration from for your work.
My current practice is based on painting and drawing. I’m interested in the trauma of how history unfolds. I believe through different stages of life I have always received, and been subjected to, authoritative mega narratives. Therefore, I study history hoping to find alternative readings from events in order to unlearn the given, in order to find ‘truth’. In a sense, my practice navigates around the notion of rewiring the self, unlearning and relearning, in order to acquire other possibilities to become.
FBB. In the last few years, you moved from graffiti toward contemporising Persian miniature on canvas. How did that shift occur?
In a general sense, graffiti has strongly influenced the contemporary painting, both in technique and aesthetics, so in a way graffiti is still present in my recent works. However, I’ve been just responding to my surroundings all through my art career, just like any other artist. Back in Iran, the appropriate respond appeared in the form of vandalism and graffiti; now in UK it’s painting. Not to mention my audience and also personality has massively changed since I relocated to Manchester.
FBB. Talk to us about your practice and how you go about painting your latest canvases.
I’ve developed further from my previous large-scale acrylic paintings to make smaller oil paintings now. The content and source of inspiration is still very much relevant: history and politics. However, I’m trying to be more conscious about classic ways of organizing an image and the history of painting. I have a sense of nostalgia for an era in which art had clear standards and foundations, where the academy had deeply rooted beliefs in the utility of philosophy and a commitment to the principles of geometry, when art was made collectively, not based on a cynical private relationship between the painter and the market. I start new paintings with abstract compositions, perhaps trying to be playful with one thirds and one fourths. This way the stories and figures they all surface themselves through the process of drawing and painting.
FBB. Talk to us about your challenges as an Iranian artist today.
To be honest, I am finding it more and more difficult to identify with the elite and trends of the Iranian art scene. I think the biggest collective challenge is the lack of inclusive support from the Iranian art elite.
FBB. What is your message behind your paintings?
My works evolve around academic research and critical thinking, perhaps painting is a way of processing my studies. Therefore, I avoid narrowing down information, jumping to conclusions and reducing painting into a subjective moral message. Not to mention, according to Slavoj Zizek, the essence of wisdom is opportunistic. Ideally, I’m trying to be an educator who wishes the audience to think for themselves.
FBB. Why have you chosen your base to be in Manchester? How does that help your practice?
Manchester School of Art is the second oldest art school of UK, there is a history and tradition behind it. The art school gave me the opportunity to slow down and become conscious of the possibilities I don’t want to become, in other words a safe and protected place to make mistakes. I’m at a point where I’m deciding whether to stay at MSOA or move somewhere else for my MFA. I have an upcoming interview for studying at Royal Academy, we will see how it goes.
FBB. Talk to us about your favourite painting you have ever done.
Well, I don’t think I have one. I’m never fully satisfied with what I create.
FBB. Any upcoming exhibition?
I am currently in discussion on my first solo exhibition with Galerie Behnam-Bakhtiar in 2020. I am developing new bodies of works in different scales with oil and acrylic paints. Now, I am fully focused on the upcoming exhibition and the new works.
FBB. Tell us about your new works.
It starts as a reaction to the materials I have studied on postmodernism and neoliberalism. These new paintings depict diagrams, plans and inactivated spaces with a failed or perhaps absurd cartoonist sense to them.
I have been trying to revisit the standards of image making from the Miniature schools and the European schools of painting since Renascence. Perhaps I have a sense of nostalgia for times where painting was produced based on the highest objective standards.