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Iman Raad: Tongue Tied

Work / Art

“A​ ​moment​ ​of disturbance​ ​to​ ​reality”: artist Iman Raad on his latest work

Appearances can be deceiving, as Iranian-born artist Iman Raad’s latest exhibition Tongue Tied demonstrates. At first glance soaked in vivid colour, a second look reveals scenes of an altogether darker nature. We spoke to the now Brooklyn-based artist to unlock the secrets behind the mysterious set of works.

Where​ ​are​ ​you​ ​at​ ​the​ ​moment and what​ ​are​ ​you​ ​working​ ​on?
My​ ​life-and-work​ ​partner​ ​and​ ​I​ ​just​ ​moved​ ​in​ ​NYC​ ​after​ ​four​ ​years​ ​of​ ​living​ ​in​ ​New​ ​Haven,​ ​Connecticut, where​ ​she​ ​got​ ​her​ ​MFA​ ​in​ ​Sculpture​ ​and​ ​I​ ​got​ ​my​ ​MFA​ ​in​ ​Painting​ ​and​ ​Printmaking​ ​from​ ​Yale​ ​School of​ ​Art.​ ​At​ ​the​ ​moment,​ ​we​ ​are​ ​arranging​ ​our​ ​new​ ​live-work​ ​space​ ​in​ ​Brooklyn​ ​and​ ​are​ ​eager​ ​to​ ​start our​ ​work​ ​in​ ​this​ ​fresh​ ​environment. We​ ​moved​ ​to​ ​the​ ​US​ ​in​ ​2013​ ​from​ ​Tehran,​ ​Iran.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​a​ ​BE​ ​in​ ​Mechanical​ ​Engineering,​ ​but​ ​I’ve barely​ ​touched​ ​any​ ​engineering​ ​tool​ ​in​ ​my​ ​whole​ ​life.​ ​I​ ​used​ ​to​ ​run​ ​my​ ​own​ ​small​ ​graphic​ ​design studio,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​self-taught​ ​designer​ ​in​ ​Tehran.​ ​My​ ​design​ ​works​ ​have​ ​been​ ​always​ ​on​ ​the​ ​edge​ ​of​ ​design and​ ​art​ ​though. Despite​ ​my​ ​background​ ​in​ ​graphic​ ​design​ ​in​ ​my​ ​home​ ​country,​ ​immigration​ ​gives​ ​me​ ​the​ ​opportunity to​ ​refresh​ ​my​ ​knowledge​ ​and​ ​career​ ​towards​ ​art,​ ​so ​I​ ​went​ ​to​ ​Yale​ ​School​ ​of​ ​Art​ ​to​ ​study painting​ ​and​ ​have​ ​been​ ​focused​ ​on​ ​painting​ ​since​ ​then,​ ​however,​ ​my​ ​work​ ​is​ ​fluid​ ​between​ ​disciplines and​ ​I’ve​ ​been​ ​always​ ​organically​ ​resistant​ ​to​ ​classification.

Tell​ ​us​ ​about​ ​your latest exhibition Tongue​ ​Tied​ ​and​ ​the​ ​ideas​ ​that surround it.
In​ ​spring​ ​of​ ​2017,​ ​I​ ​gathered​ ​a​ ​variety​ ​of​ ​works​ ​that​ ​I​ ​had​ ​made​ ​in​ ​2016​ ​in​ ​an​ ​exhibition​ ​at​ ​Sargent’s Daughters​ ​Gallery​ ​in​ ​New​ ​York,​ ​all​ ​under​ ​an​ ​umbrella​ ​of​ ​one​ ​single​ ​title:​ ​_Tongue​ ​Tied_. The​ ​show​ ​included​ ​a​ ​series​ ​of​ ​9 x 12​ ​inch​ ​egg-tempera​ ​paintings,​ ​lying​ ​down​ ​on​ ​their​ ​individual​ ​narrow shelves.​ ​White​ ​bowls​ ​with​ ​red​ ​roses​ ​decoration,​ ​fruits​ ​-mostly​ ​oranges,​ ​candles​ ​on​ ​a​ ​table​ ​covered with​ ​tablecloth​ ​with​ ​fruits​ ​pattern​ ​in​ ​front​ ​of​ ​ornamental​ ​wallpaper.​ ​Paintings​ ​represent​ ​a​ ​moment​ ​of disturbance​ ​to​ ​reality.​ ​I​ ​create​ ​this​ ​disturbance​ ​through​ ​wrong​ ​perspective,​ ​disordering​ ​physical​ ​rules, image​ ​replication​ ​inspired​ ​by​ ​digital​ ​glitch​ ​on​ ​screens​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​representing​ ​momentary​ ​events​ ​as threshold​ ​of​ ​a​ ​crisis.​ ​In​ ​this​ ​paintings​ ​objects​ ​and​ ​fruits​ ​appear​ ​to​ ​be​ ​self-conscious​ ​animate​ ​things. I​ ​also​ ​included​ ​a​ ​large​ ​marker​ ​drawing​ ​on​ ​paper​ ​in​ ​the​ ​show.​ ​This​ ​drawing​ ​represents​ ​a​ ​complex interplay​ ​of​ ​ornamental​ ​tablecloth,​ ​wallpaper​ ​and​ ​carpet​ ​interrupted​ ​by​ ​long​ ​rows​ ​of​ ​overlapping​ ​birds move​ ​across​ ​the​ ​painting.​ ​The​ ​work​ ​narrates​ ​a​ ​moment​ ​of​ ​confrontation​ ​between​ ​different​ ​sorts​ ​of order​ ​and​ ​disturbances​ ​in​ ​an​ ​unknown​ ​yet​ ​familiar​ ​environment​ ​that​ ​is​ ​getting​ ​occupied​ ​by​ ​flock​ ​of birds.

Two​ ​3D​ ​works​ ​were​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​exhibition.​ ​One​ ​includes​ ​two​ ​acrylic​ ​paintings​ ​on​ ​raw​ ​canvas,​ ​eight marker​ ​drawings​ ​on​ ​paper,​ ​two​ ​acrylic​ ​paintings​ ​on​ ​artificial​ ​plants,​ ​dyed​ ​found​ ​fabrics​ ​and​ ​decorated wood​ ​sticks.​ ​The​ ​painting​ ​on​ ​the​ ​front​ ​side​ ​representing​ ​a​ ​pink​ ​flower​ ​and​ ​the​ ​back​ ​painting representing​ ​a​ ​colony​ ​on​ ​Mars.

My​ ​installations​ ​appear​ ​like​ ​a​ ​collection​ ​of​ ​unrelated​ ​pieces,​ ​but​ ​reading​ ​them​ ​together​ ​would​ ​suggest a​ ​narrative​ ​of​ ​the​ ​whole.
Also,​ ​a​ ​mural​ ​I​ ​made​ ​inside​ ​the​ ​gallery​ ​that​ ​presents​ ​a​ ​collection​ ​of​ ​paintings​ ​and​ ​colourful ornamentation​ ​that​ ​is​ ​influenced​ ​by​ ​South​ ​Asia​ ​Truck​ ​Paintings.

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Iman Raad: Tongue Tied

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Iman Raad: Tongue Tied

Despite the oppressively bright colours which define the visual works in Tongue Tied, it’s easy to spot mythical, mystical symbols; devils, eyes, fire. Can you tell us more about where those came from?
My​ ​research​ ​interests​ ​have​ ​been​ ​recently​ ​around​ ​communication​ ​structure​ ​between​ ​believers​ ​and images,​ ​objects​ ​or​ ​places​ ​that​ ​are​ ​made,​ ​owned​ ​or​ ​collect​ ​together​ ​in​ ​association​ ​with​ ​their​ ​belief.​ ​I’ve been​ ​thinking​ ​how​ ​an​ ​artist​ ​can​ ​generate​ ​feeling​ ​of​ ​belief,​ ​or​ ​how​ ​an​ ​artist​ ​can​ ​face​ ​you​ ​to​ ​an​ ​unknown belief​ ​from​​, maybe,​ ​an​ ​unknown​ ​far​ ​future​ ​of​ ​human,​ ​to​ ​suggest​ ​a​ ​moment​ ​of​ ​doubt​ ​and​ ​uncertainty​ ​in your​ ​everyday​ ​normals​ ​and​ ​to​ ​shake​ ​safe​ ​bases​ ​of​ ​our​ ​thoughts.

Murals​ ​transforming​ ​the​ ​space​ ​through​ ​high​ ​impact​ ​of​ ​bright​ ​primary​ ​and​ ​secondary​ ​colours​ ​and​ ​variety of​ ​mysterious​ ​and​ ​humorous​ ​images​ ​and​ ​ornamentation​ ​seducing​ ​people​ ​with​ ​beats​ ​of​ ​detailed patterns.​ ​Primitivity​ ​of​ ​visual​ ​language,​ ​marks​ ​and​ ​material​ ​in​ ​my​ ​work​ ​push​ ​back​ ​the​ ​barriers​ ​of mastery​ ​and​ ​proficiency​ ​and​ ​face​ ​viewers​ ​more​ ​of​ ​raw​ ​imagery.​ ​Under​ ​this​ ​charming​ ​ornament​ ​is​ ​a thorny​ ​bush​ ​presenting​ ​our​ ​insane​ ​brutal​ ​world,​ ​our​ ​failures​ ​of​ ​hopes,​ ​our​ ​disease​ ​and​ ​disasters,​ ​and our​ ​weakness​ ​and​ ​pitifulness.

My​ ​work​ ​presents​ ​a​ ​contradictory​ ​combination​ ​of​ ​beauty​ ​and​ ​fear​ ​to​ ​may​ ​generate​ ​mixed​ ​feeling​ ​of pleasure​ ​and​ ​pain.

Some​ ​aspects​ ​come​ ​from​ ​my​ ​interest​ ​in​ ​psychology​ ​and​ ​notion​ ​of​ ​reality.​ ​My​ ​work​ ​addresses humankind’s​ ​anxieties​ ​about​ ​existence​ ​by​ ​staging​ ​a​ ​traumatic​ ​scene​ ​of​ ​a​ ​disturbance​ ​in​ ​reality.​ ​This rupture​ ​occurs​ ​through​ ​displacement​ ​of​ ​objects​ ​and​ ​interruption​ ​of​ ​perspectival​ ​and​ ​physical​ ​order. My​ ​paintings​ ​often​ ​explores​ ​the​ ​subjectivity​ ​of​ ​“being”​ ​through​ ​non​ ​human​ ​subjects​ ​including self-conscious​ ​animals,​ ​fruits,​ ​objects​ ​or​ ​imaginary​ ​creatures.​ ​In​ ​one​ ​body​ ​of​ ​work,​ ​fruits​ ​become animate;​ ​in​ ​another,​ ​birds​ ​are​ ​self​ ​aware​ ​and​ ​take​ ​the​ ​place​ ​of​ ​humans. My​ ​work​ ​insist​ ​on​ ​orders​ ​and​ ​disturb​ ​that​ ​itself​ ​to​ ​reveal​ ​our​ ​very​ ​selves​ ​we​ ​have​ ​lost​ ​in​ ​different​ ​sort of​ ​social​ ​and​ ​psychological​ ​structures. Digital​ ​glitch,​ ​which​ ​causes​ ​replication​ ​of​ ​digital​ ​images​ ​in​ ​the​ ​screen,​ ​has​ ​also​ ​informed​ ​my​ ​way​ ​of thinking​ ​about​ ​the​ ​role​ ​of​ ​a​ ​subject​ ​in​ ​a​ ​composition.​ ​Condensed​ ​repetitions​ ​in​ ​my​ ​paintings​ ​create lines​ ​of​ ​image-of-objects​ ​rather​ ​than​ ​representing​ ​concrete​ ​physical​ ​objects,​ ​effecting​ ​a​ ​sudden malfunction​ ​of​ ​perception​ ​of​ ​physical​ ​reality. And​ ​it goes without saying ​that​ ​humour​ ​is​ ​always​ ​present​ ​in​ ​my​ ​work!

Where did you look for new ideas?
I​ ​remind​ ​myself​ ​that​ ​studio​ ​practice​ ​evolves​ ​the​ ​idea,​ ​not​ ​to​ ​focus​ ​on​ ​idea​ ​itself. In​ ​cases​ ​that​ ​I​ ​have​ ​no​ ​deadline,​ ​I​ ​start​ ​to​ ​draw​ ​with​ ​a​ ​simple​ ​subject​ ​matter,​ ​for​ ​days​ ​without pressure.​ ​And​ ​I​ ​read. In​ ​cases​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​under​ ​time​ ​pressure,​ ​I’m​ ​usually​ ​useless​ ​and​ ​just​ ​trust​ ​my​ ​destiny​ ​with​ ​hope​ ​of last-minute​ ​breakthrough.

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Iman Raad: Tongue Tied

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