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Spaces of Hope - Mehdi Ghadyanloo

City of Hope, Mehdi Ghayanloo (Image courtesy of the Howard Griffin Gallery)

Having just finished a solo show with the Howard Griffin Gallery, Iranian Artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo will be visiting the Courtauld Institute to discuss his work:

7pm, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, Thursday the 9th of March.


Originally shown from 2nd until the 5th of March, Spaces of Hope was an off-site exhibition by the Howard Griffin Gallery. Held in the University of Westminster’s Ambika P3 gallery, it showcased the recent installation, canvases, and etchings of Mehdi Ghadyanloo.

As I approached the unconventional gallery space, having wound my way through an assortment of industrial spaces, down fire escapes and past beady-eyed pigeons, the disjoint on entering the show itself was striking. Visitors were confronted with a dark walkway and a realisation that the noises of London had been replaced by a deep rumbling that wasn't heard so much as felt. The experience was imbued with a touch of the theatrical, and on turning the corner a solitary sculpture was revealed by a single spotlight. Four larger than life size figures grappled with a suspended rope, apparently climbing upwards. Precarious and desperate, this unorthodox interpretation of hope is perhaps the most challenging I’ve come across. It is realistic not due to its figurative nature, but in its presentation of the negative aspects of hope, the frantic and fearful.

Downstairs the exhibition continued through a corridor of delicate etchings which reiterated the themes of the larger works in the next room. Bordering on abstraction, these canvases depict stark geometric structures set in barren landscapes.

Unpracticed Love, Mehdi Ghadyanloo (Image courtesy of the Howard Griffin Gallery)

Deceived by the illusion of depth, the eye was drawn to the subtle play of light over the steps and unadorned walls of these partially exposed interiors. Despite the alien nature of the structures, the meticulously observed lighting created the impression of a moment preserved. Only a reoccurring anonymous crowd interrupted the eerie stillness of the canvases. These figures are apparently trapped in this surreal realm, and if these are ‘spaces of hope’ they are entirely deceptive.

Having familiarised myself with Ghadyanloo’s previous work in anticipation of my visit, the overriding bleakness of the show was somewhat unexpected. Moving away from his playful murals in Tehran, this show is remarkably explicit in its cynicism. While it retains a depth of meaning, the works are both emotionally engaging and aesthetically striking. It is this balance that makes Spaces of Hope one of the most engaging contemporary exhibitions of the year so far.

Editor’s note:

If you’re interested in learning more about Ghaylanoo’s work, in addition to the talk at the Courtauld on the 9th of March, an accompanying publication will soon be released. Containing contributions by alumna Hannah Margarita Zafiropoulos and Courtauld Lecturer Sussan Babaie it’s not to be missed.

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