Mehran Elminia at Rosenfeld Porcini

Filed in Reviews by on June 22, 2014

Mehran Elminia: Painting

Rosenfeld Porcini

Until 24 July 2014

Mehran Elminia

Mehran Elminia

Having been rather impressed by his first UK solo show 2 years ago, it did not take much to persuade me to revisit Rosenfeld Porcini for Mehran Elminia’s latest exhibition. The image printed on the invitation to the opening suggested that Elminia’s work had changed; perhaps subtly as it was very recognisably his, but nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued.

According to the Exhibition Press release, “[Elminia’s] artistic search is not to comment on politics, psychology, sociology, religion or human relationships. He is interested in exploring the language of painting as an end unto itself.” The title of the exhibition appears to be literal, rather than an allusion to any thesis Mehran Elminia may have about the medium in general. Apparently, he works quickly and intensely, often for long periods of time so that the act of creation can be as spontaneous as possible. This concern with the act or process of painting inevitably connects his work to action painters like Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Willem De Kooning. Indeed the exhibition press release makes the connection to Abstract Expressionism, and to Clement Greenberg, the art critic so associated with the phenomenon that he is frequently considered its High Priest (although he denied ever seeking or accepting that office).

Mehran Elminia’s intention is that his paintings should be entirely abstract; while he acknowledges that the finished paintings frequently contain elements of figuration, they are not representational. It is difficult for the viewer not to see apparently representational elements, but they are no part of the artist’s conscious intention; the conundrum that these paintings frequently pose is whether it is the artist’s or the viewer’s unconscious mind which causes these elements to appear, or perhaps more likely, a combination of the two in which Elminia is a kind of agent provocateur and the viewer is the unwitting but helpless conspirator.

One of the new elements in Mehran Elminia’s recent paintings is the use of lines of white paint forming web- and skein-like details over the surface of parts of the paintings, acting as a counterpoint and overlay to the bolder and vividly colourful elements below. In a recent work, the white lines are replaced by black, somehow vaguely reminiscent of manga comic strips. Throughout, Elminia’s extraordinary mastery of colour is one of the most striking features of his output.

The themes of Mehran Elminia’s work, and of this exhibition, are clear, as is its aesthetic value. But having had two years to think about Elminia’s art, I started to ask myself – what of context? The references to Abstract Expressionism are there, but it could be argued that these are, in a way, somewhat backward-looking. It is also perhaps strange that an Iranian artist should pay such extensive homage to the artistic product of one of the two last Imperialist nations left standing after the Second World War, especially since his country’s relationship with the USA could hardly have been described in the interim as harmonious. The Abstract Expressionists were largely seen at the time as art’s rugged, independent frontiersmen, despite it being shown subsequently that they were actually being used by the CIA as tools in the cultural theatre of the Cold War. I am reminded, as I frequently am when I look at art which claims to be pure and unadulterated by political or social messages, that the composer Cornelius Cardew, an avowed Maoist, was adamant that his fellow composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, for whom he had previously worked as an assistant, served Imperialism, although the latter’s intention was barely evident from his work. It could be argued, and it almost certainly would in certain quarters, that an artist who wishes to be appreciated solely for the marks he leaves on the canvas is naive, perhaps even solipsistic. I am not sure I would put it so strongly, but the point is not lost on me. However, social, political and historical circumstances inevitably provide context, even for those who would prefer their art to speak for itself.

Perhaps I am premature in wanting everything on a plate here and now (heaven knows, I see work by plenty of artists who have context in spades but precious little content). I am sure that there will be those who feel no need for it. For the time being, I, for one, can certainly enjoy Mehran Elminia’s undoubted skills and technique.

Tags: , ,

John Kavanagh

About the Author ()

John Francis Kavanagh is the founder and editor of Artists Insight.

Comments are closed.