RAAD, Iman; Days of bliss and woe
A riot of colour and movement, Iman Raad's artworks advocate for ornamentation and decoration in art and architecture. His paintings, drawings, murals and banners reconfigure and reimagine influences from 'glitch' aesthetics, Persian miniature painting, Iranian folk art and Pakistani truck painting. Raad's practice is informed by a belief in the centrality of vernacular art forms to the wider history of art.
Persia has a long history of mural painting that continues today; the practice of wall painting dates back to the tate third century BCE, although the earliest surviving examples are from the third century CE.(I ) In addition, abstract mosaic works adorn the public spaces, palaces and places of worship throughout contemporary Iran. Like these public murals, Raad's artworks also respond specifically to their sites; for APT9, for instance, the composition of Days of bliss and woe 2018 responds to visitors' close viewing distance (due to the width of the walkway) and the soaring height of the wall. The artist draws on this history of public art and combines it with contemporary subject matter to create his painted installation. Raad's practice differs from historical precedents in that he uses a highly keyed palette and altered perspective, together with a mix of contemporary imagery.
For this ambitious mural entitled Days of bliss and woe 2018, Raad takes inspiration from daily life, referencing the heavily ornamented trucks and buses of South Asia. This painting tradition — with subjects ranging from lush natural landscapes to Islamic symbolism — was inspired by Mughal painting, which developed from Persian miniature painting. Raad is interested in how elements of Persian painting have been adapted and transformed. The ornate trucks are like mobile galleries and Raad's mural for APT9 is intended to be viewed on the move — visitors capture glimpses from the foyer below, and the artwork comes into full view from the escalator between floors, while close-up views are taken between galleries.
In addition, the giddy repetition of images affords the viewer's eye quick movement across the surface of the wall. It mimics the dynamic procession of figures found in cave paintings or the friezes of ancient Greek architecture, designed to add drama and movement within the larger composition. The repetitious imagery also references glitch imagery, is used by Raad to create images that are difficult to read upon first glance and therefore need active looking. Glitch imagery is created by the corruption of a digital file, the error moves our focus from the content of the image to its materiality. In Raad's painting brush-strokes are left visible, built up areas of paint and exposed sections of the support remind the viewer of the materiality of the artwork. References to materiality of images appear in Raad's work as a way to provoke a larger discussion about being aware of how the images that we consume are always constructed.
Ornamentation is key to both Persian murals and miniature painting, however in European and North American art history it has been considered a supporting device for central figurative compositions. In response, Raad places ornamentation at the core of his large-scale mural commissioned for APT9. Ubiquitous subjects such as birds, fruit and flowers (often found in the decorative borders of Persian miniatures) are repositioned as principal subjects that carry new narrative weight. There is wide breadth of references in this artwork - including Australian imagery - such as the Pandanus fruit that is found along the coastlines of northern Australia, Asia and the Pacific, as well as the now extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine). Other pictures include details from mosque architecture, apples morphing into moons and fish transforming into apples. There are also references to the exploration of outer space seen in the orbiting pickles and settlements on far-flung planets. What draws this disparate material together is a sense of movement: migration, replacement, colonisation, and extinction. These subjects are rendered in fantastical ways, which draw the viewer into Raad's creations.
The acquisition of Days of bliss and woe 2018 by Iman Raad would be a major contribution to the Collection and would be the first large-scale, reconfigurable installation to enter the Collection by an Iranian artist. Referencing the movement of artistic lineages between West and South Asia, if acquired, this artwork could act as a central pivot point for future Collection displays. Understanding that contemporary art museums are dynamic spaces this artwork has the ability to be reconfigured for different sized spaces, enabling full flexibility for future displays.
1 Sheila R Canby, 'Mural painting', Encyclopadia Iranica, 13 November 2015,
<http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/mural-painting>, viewed June 2018.