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Demons and D-Artboards - Rossi & Rossi

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION entitled Demons and D-Artboards, featuring the work of two contemporary Iranian artists, Malekeh Nayiny and Fereydoun Ave, will be on display at Rossi & Rossi from April 1 to April 25, 2009.

The exhibition, in association with Janet Rady Fine Art, comprises a series of nine digitally manipulated photographs of Persian demons, humorously depicted by Nayiny, and nine dartboards complete with darts, transformed by Ave into Tibetan prayer wheels.

Living respectively in Paris, and Tehran and Paris, Nayiny and Ave have well established careers and have shown extensively internationally. And whilst both artists have previously participated in major exhibitions in London – Nayiny at the British Museum’s Word into Art (2006) and Ave in the Barbican Gallery’s Iranian Contemporary Art (2001) – this joint show is the first time the two have appeared together in a commercial gallery in the capital.

Linking the work of the two artists is the theme of one’s inner and outer demons and man’s need to come to terms with or to repel them, by way of re-connecting with his spirituality.

Inspired by illustrations of harmless spotted divs from the Persian poet Ferdowsi’s epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings), Nayiny’s demons are depicted as rather ordinary men and women in a number of imaginary domestic settings or superimposed on advertising hoardings. These are at the same time kind but sinister figures, sporting large pink or black papier mâché heads with large horns, bulging eyes, exaggerated eyebrows, black moustaches and red protruding tongues. Some wear clothes covered with motifs of human organs, suggesting the demon originates in our genes, our cultures and customs, thus leaving no room for escape.

Nayiny’s playfully vivid imagery evokes the role demons assume in the imagination of a child whilst signalling their transformation in adult life, where they continue to accompany us both internally and externally in a world dominated by superficiality, disillusionment and fear. Nayiny asks, ‘what next? And you begin to paint and draw, and one by one they appear on the cat-walk in all their finery. Next time you walk in the park, you take one with you’. These are the internal demons which we must learn to live with and it is only by reference to ancient mythology that we can begin to understand them.

Continuing this theme of internal and external demons, but in a Tibetan context, Ave has converted each of the nine dartboards into a vibrant Wheel of Life, replete with darts and feathers painted in the colours of Tibetan prayer flags.

Wheels of Life are traditionally found at the entrances of Buddhist temples and monasteries, where they are held up to us as a mirror by Yama, the god of death, who sends to human beings the messengers of approaching old-age, sickness and death. Prayer flags are colourful panels or rectangular cloths often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside and to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom.

However, by the subtle inclusion into the central bullseye of the dartboard of the image of a Chinese dictator, Ave has created a tension release game/meditation that takes into consideration the delicacies and spiritual sensitivities of the Tibetans. As Ave notes, ‘Since aggression is not permitted in Buddhism and only sets up bad Karma but release through prayer is permitted’, he has provided a means, through his paradoxical imagery, for players/viewers to release their aggression and tension at the same time as spreading blessings in order to create good Karma.

Rossi & Rossi, 16 Clifford Street, London, W1

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