NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 33

Iranian Contemporary Design

Reza Abedini’s Universe

Bavand Behpoor

1. The word hesitates. It looks under its feet and refuses to descend to the page. When it finally lands on the piece of paper, it runs around anxiously; hangs from one edge and then jumps down. It is afraid. Rightfully so. It has learn-ed through experience that Abedini will gut it, cook it like a stew, inject into it the meaning he wishes, attach a ring to its leg and release it into nature. He shall record on paper the path along which it runs. The word knows that this time it is not confronted with a writer who hunts words. This time, the word has to deal with someone who treats it like a criminal caught in the corner. Abedini handcuffs it and presses its face against the wall — then acts as if he has done it a great favor. Speak not, look! The words that are caught in the frame of Abedini’s picture breathe heavily. Their breath makes the transparent surface of the paper foggy. 
When somebody has spent his whole life trying to take revenge of words on behalf of images, it doesn’t come as a surprise if the words try to retaliate and refuse to describe him. For instance, they have chosen one among themselves to represent his works and loom over them: typography. But what has typography to do with Abedini’s work? He does not listen to what the words say. He makes them realize how it feels to be written by others. He has done everything in his power to ensure the meaning of his words are seen, not read. His works brim with silence — the lyrics are removed but the mu-sical notes remain. A viewer who can read them can hum the song to himself. Once the meaning of the words are sucked out of their bodies and spread across the page, Abedini piles up the refuse at dif-ferent points; constructs a structure with their corpses or buries them in the walls of the image. He colonizes the text, then steps into the frame and takes a photograph with his hos-tages. Speak not, look! A photographer who photographs writers tries to portray the meaning of a writer without the help of his words. In a similar manner, Abedini photographs words on backdrops of images. He allows them to pose for a photograph with his images. He tells them to keep quiet, so the image may speak on their behalf. A little bit to the left! A little bit to the right! Don’t move! More to this side! Perfect! Just like the nobles of Francisco Goya’s paintings, his models have no choice but to be satisfied with a portrait which does not represent them, but records their essence 
in the language of images.

2. Abedini is no graphic designer — sensehe is an artist in the limited sense of the word. ( The words smirk maliciously. ) He has done everything possible to become the latter. A visual artist does not obey the viewer or the client. The immediate use of his work is not apparent. 
Abedini has very clear, oldfashioned definitions of “art” and “artist” — those which date all the way back to Mirza Gholamreza and Rodchenko. [ The words are happy! ] If graphic design means ‘visual communication’ ( as it is called in Iranian academia ) then Reza Abedini is no graphic designer. He does not throw the message demanded by the client in the basket of graphic design to make sure the viewer can stretch out his hand to take it. It is not difficult to see how Abedini is obsessed with developing a certain visual language rather than focusing on single artworks. He is concerned with the life of a collective visual language rather than developing a personal signature; he asks whether such a thing called Persian visual language could exist? [ The words become quiet. ] Speak not, look! You only understand what is said in your own language. Un-learn, forget! You have lost your previous gaze, don’t you see? Reza Abedini is concerned. 
3. How can one distinguish an authentic Abedini from a fake? An authentic Abedini is not flat, but has a universe. Behind every painting there is a wall. Behind every window opens an empty space. Reza Abedini provides access to a universe which is not his own. He has not discovered it — it has always been there. He translates it. This is a universe which, although distanced, is still accessible to the native-speakers of a Farsi visual language. That is why his works simultaneously convey a sense of pastness and death. They suffer from labor pain. 
They are time machines that anybody infected with his obsessions can step into. These machines speak the language of today. Abedini believed in the cultural desire of an era and tried to realize it through his work. The post - revolution visual art of Iran gave rise to artists such as Abedini. However, many of those who thought they were on the same path gradually withdrew, forgot their claims, or became bored with themselves and the world. They looked down at his achievements, which they couldn’t share. Abedini did not assume that his world existed; it wasn’t his invention. Rather, he was looking into it, he had faith in it, and he was not imagining. His works are not complicated; they are simple in their dynamics through their transparency. Something shines through — Abedini himself, and more. His body of work culminates in a single calligraphic piece that attempts to respect Ibn Muqla and Kamal al - Din Bihzad at the same time. Nay, such richness does not belong to a single man. Such polish and transparency is a full-time job. Like calligraphic practice, the more it attempts to approach the model the more it becomes unique and distances itself from it. Abedini cuts his way open through the jungle of the triumphant visual art of today to reach into the past. This is why he is an artist in Farabi’s sense of the word. However, had he met Farabi, he couldn’t have avoided advising him to talk less and look more!

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