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Mojgun Bakhtiary

“An Unguarded Moment of Gravity”

Roiling masses on the verge of an impending awakening are lost in trance in a gravitational field; people in a revolutionary upheaval suddenly come to a halting stop, drop all their distant dreams to the instant pull of a charismatic personality, suffused with an artificial daze, to a droning monologue that blocks all dialogue, that imbues them with an intoxicating forgetfulness by which all attempts at retrieving memory becomes a futile and abrasive chore.

Dispirited Perspectives is Mojgun Bakhtiari’s latest collection. Committed to her painterly craft, she pictures and documents contemporary history with lapidary exactitude; innumerable crosshatches on canvas have called for long hours of work, of contemplation and meditation; time enough to ponder nameless individuals that have made history but whose contributions have gone unnoted. Although for Mojgun Bakhtiaryi painting has an introspective and healing quality, it is also a way to take the pulse of the times, becoming cognizant of the official lexicon of power and signals that power structures emit. Her lived experience and social sensitivities make her aware of the cooption of meaning and reversal of ideals, their corruption, distortion, and redirection, and she regards these as keywords to understand her surrounding – vacillation between big hopes and bigger disappointments chafing the soul and fogging the vista of reform in the political sphere and making it impossible to imagine.

Much like some of her previous collections, “flower” plays a central role, imbued with personality, whose faithful, detailed depiction is true to the genus but its presence on canvas is not limited to its taxonomical, decorative, or symbolic significance. Flower, here, is a living organism extending its roots beneath the earth and is in marked contrast to human forms, thus playing a fundamental role in the semantic and visual structure of the work, much like a character (and not an accessory) in a drama. All preconceptions as to its efflorescence and redolence are de-familiarized, and an alien, sprawling creature emerges whose parts extend in every direction, even seeping into another panel of the diptych. This de-familiarization and reorientation of an element so familiar and household requires tremendous courage, visual perspicuity, and deftness of hands, all of which can be seen in these painting.

Already in Safe Society (2009), Exposed and Watch out this year! (2010), And Suddenly Nothing Happened (2011), NoBody (2012), Nameless and Elusive Apprehensions (2014) Mojgun Bakhtiary had been following futile undertakings and the vicious cycle of hope and hopelessness in the public sphere, sensitive to her angle of entry, which sometimes brought her to individual narratives and at other times borrowed directly from specific laws. She plants literary and cryptic references coming from the prevalent political vocabulary within the visual field of the frame or sometimes in their title. It is thus that, despite their visual and executional diversity of all her works, we can string her individual works together like prayer beads. Each work records and expresses social and political preoccupations of the artist who feels that painting has full capacity to communicate her beliefs and emotions, and the artist is persistently and dedicatedly using the “act of painting” to discover its capacities – painting as a virtuous conduct that throws light on a corner for wisdom to grasp.

Jinoos Taghizadeh
September 2017