An Odd Autobiographical Habit


An Odd Autobiographical Habit
Curator’s note

He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a verb in the past tense.

James Joyce, A Painful Case, Dubliners


The recent paintings by Azarakhsh Asgari are mischievous pieces produced through a mindset that has escaped any forced creation. They are the result of her cowering in her safe corner, in full awareness and determination, to stop thinking, fighting, resisting, and to avoid making any decisions; to begin somewhere and get to somewhere else, to excite her thoughts and make an image. Yet, it is in the same moments that with a carefree and leisurely attitude, she points to her concealed and clear issues, and targets her personal or non-personal concerns, so as to use visual language to narrate a comprehensive whole: an image.

As time passes though, her narratives do not appear as personal —pastiches and patched images from a pastiched and patched mind who accumulates all unfavorable social and regional issues and suppressions with colorful and far-fetched dreams. Is this not similar to the post-WW1 experience, when artistic expression goes through deep changes and the elements of the image become less harmonious and balanced, breaking up into expressive and active components, with the artist, gradually and through the passage of time creating a more personal narrative, yet from the perspective of a more collective perception?

If militarism, nationalism and imperialism led to the First World War, and itself and the destruction of it caused reactions such as stream of consciousness and internal soliloquys to become more common in literature, in visual arts, surrealists used Freud’s scientific approach to what he called the subconscious, and repurposed it for individual expression, and used expressive tools of their “contemporary” times to encounter the trauma and sufferings caused by the same mental-religious-social harms, to visually depict their hopelessness as well as hope using the language of dreams and the hidden layers of the mind.

Among such innovative tools was collage, which during almost a century —since the second decade of the twentieth century to the postmodern era, and up to now— has been used by artists to increase the diversity of their images in the context of the different contemporary mindsets, and based on their individual decisions and needs, include visual elements from their socio-political state and environment in their works and converse in the vernacular.

The same encounter has been the basis of the current works, but here, unlike the dream-like patches of the surrealists, or the pieces of packaging of consumer goods and newspaper and other print material cuttings of the Pop Art era that had political or protest or critical functions, the patches that have been put together in the context of Azarakhsh Asgari’s paintings are from her other paintings, or in other words, cuttings from her own pastiche mind in the paintings of the first hall, and stickers of well-known buildings or urban landmarks all around the world in the third hall, and she has even put together multi-layer images of the works in the second hall to use an unconfidently emphasis on her autobiographical method for expressing her individual tone as a contemporary human being who takes influence from whatever happens in her “environs”, on a global scale.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that in art history, and especially in the recent one hundred years, artists who have used collage and assemblage to critically encounter their environment or create visual diversity, Azarakhsh Asgari has not used diverse techniques in her paintings, and has not added incongruous pieces to her creations to provide herself with novel experiences. In fact, her expressive language shows her pattern of thought and her patched and layered behavior, that is a distinctive characteristic of our time: the postmodern, or metamodern era whose context is a cultural reaction to recent global events such as climate change, economic crises, political instability, and the digital revolution, and whose language is made of an emphasis on personal storytelling and narratives.

Using collages and patched images, and by patches of an incongruous and disintegrated imagination, Azarakhsh Asgari morphs her personal narratives into images, and by presenting the image of herself, without emphasizing it as a self-portrait, she suspiciously gazes upon herself at a little distance from her body, and shares her direct autobiographical experience with her viewer.


Maryam Majd
August 2021