Ali Banisadr was born in Tehran in 1976 and moved to California with his family when he was a child. He currently lives and works in New York.
Present in all of his works is a sense of sound and movement that is due to how Banisadr condenses his imagery and chooses a wide range of colours to bring his subject to life.
During his recent solo show, Ordered Disorders, at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, we talked with him to discuss his process as an artist, where he draws inspiration to produce his work, and how his origins have affected his sense of creation.
There is often tension when an artist has become known for a particular style or aesthetic and they want to evolve beyond that or experiment with something else. Galleries, audiences, collectors, or the art world at large sometimes push back or try to pigeonhole the artist for what is already known and proven. As someone who did gain promise with a very unique signature style and has since successfully evolved, what are your thoughts on this?
When I’m in the studio, that’s like the safe place for me to be, with the work and my thoughts and my books, and although I’m aware of all the things that are happening outside, when I’m in the studio and the door closes, the most important thing for me is the conversation with the painting and the development of the work. I look for the slow progress within the work—listening to it and not imposing anything on it—and when it comes to experimentations and development in the work, it has to be spontaneous, and it has to feel right with the painting that I’m doing; so I’m sort of just listening to the painting and where it wants to go and I sort of follow that rule.
Hieronymus Bosch, Persian miniatures, and perhaps even Jackson Pollock have been talked about as references in your work. Are there any artists that have influenced you that are less obvious to critics? Either those who you directly find inspiring and reference visually or even ones who you admire philosophically.
Well, I just went to the Foundation Giacometti while I was in Paris, I have been a big fan of Giacometti, and just going over there and seeing the studio and how he worked and the sculptors, I feel like it kind of inspired me to think about possibly doing sculptors again, so we will see where that goes.
Is there anyone in fashion (historical or current) that inspires you?
For some reason, I really like the Japanese designers; I like Visvim.
As someone who has synaesthesia, you have talked about the importance of sound in your art. How does this shape the way you seek inspiration? What comes first, the visuals or the sounds? What do you seek out when you need inspiration?
When I’m painting, I hear sounds from the painting itself, and that’s the guiding force that helps me make the work, or when I look at other painters’ work that speaks to me or other art, there is a sound that I hear from those works, but then if I hear great music, like Chopin, then there is also a parallel visual world that I see from the music, so it goes both ways—sound into visual and visual into sound.
What would a 6/8 rhythm (or name a classic song like Baba Karam) look like if you thought about it or you were to paint it?
So, I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know that music, but I do remember Shahr-e Ghesseh.
You grew up during the Iran-Iraq war and many have said that they see the sights and sounds of war in your works. Can you talk about the influence of war on you and your work (or art in general)? Also, are you influenced by the current climate and wars that are going on globally? How so? What about the potential prospects of war between the country you were born in and the country you live in, which some days feel inevitable? Has that impacted you?
Yeah, I mean, I lived through the eight-year war, and I think it obviously has some impacts on the work, but the works are never referring to any particular event or war. As far as current events, I always say that my work is about art history, personal history, and current events, so it’s always the combination of these three things in the work.
Do you feel “sexier” as an Iranian artist living in New York since Trump got elected? Do you think it has had an impact at all on how people look at you or your work or the amount of interest?
Not sure. I mean, as I was saying, I’m always aware of current events that are happening, not just in the US, but around the world, and, for me, it’s like I internalize it and kind of try to see it from a bigger perspective and respond to it in my work.
What is your most vivid (or fondest) memory of growing up in Iran (other than war)?
My grandmother’s house, family gatherings, the conversations.
What is one thing you miss the most about living in Tehran? Or if you were to go back, what is the first thing you would want to do or place you would want to go?
I have never seen any of the historical cities, I have only known Tehran and the northern parts; so, I would like to go and basically see everything.
And finally, what do you think of The Tehran Times?
Well, I follow you guys on Instagram, and it’s fun, you’re fun.