Coexistence with death

Published in Zanan Ermooz Magazine, vol. 34

The only thought that escapes the dominations of reality, is fantasy.
"Herbert Marcuse"
What makes the demonstration of pain joyful? What mysterious ecstasy lies inside ugliness, that since ancient times to the modern era, has persuaded humans into the reflection of pain, torture, destruction, and demise through their creativity? From monsters and terrifying legendary creatures like Griffons and Cynocephalis and Cyclops in ancient Greek and the middle-age art to Xrafstar (sinister and demonic creatures like dragon, snake, lion, and scorpion) in ancient Iran, that are generally pictured in illustrated versions of Shahname or Ajayeb-al-Makhlooghat, and scenes from the torture of the Christ, scenes from the Karbala incident, scenes from Hell, all show the historical tendency of the artists and the poets to reflect disaster or destruction as a part of the worlds’ reality.
Fariba Rahnavard’s collages in her collection “Disaster Never Rests” is also a continuation of this long-lived old tradition. She, who is unhappy with the perpetual presence of disaster in the everyday life of man, finds a kind of catharsis by reflecting it that is itself a mental mechanism of human beings to overcome fear and weakness. It is also what the audience experiences when facing works of art like hers. Even though she has great skills in realistic representation of the objects and figures, Rahnavard prefers to move sharply into the next level by attaching photos into her paintings; to the level where the reality becomes distorted and turns into the artist’s will.
She says: “Making composition takes less effort for me in a collage form. These originally were ideas to be painted on canvas, but when they were admired in various international festivals, I followed this technique more seriously. With collage, I can finish each canvas in one or two months. Of course, it depends on my own thoughts. I work better under pressure and get the result I want quicker when I have disrupted thoughts.”
The fact is that collage is a reflection of our era’s soul. And it reflects decentralized souls who try to keep integrated despite the inhomogeneous external and internal stimulus. Collage also gives Rahnavard the opportunity to reflect the balance of the universe that is resulted from the perpetual tension of the opposites; our peaceful co-existence with continuous disasters and in ambush deaths, the good and the bad neighborhood, tension and peace, unity and division. The creation of such atmosphere, except with collage, is also possible with the method of composition or details placement in the whole work: the things that are perpetually going to explode or be annihilated, are spread in the background, while the potentially stable elements, like buildings, cottages, castles, and the walls, which are lost among the fragments or are fading out gradually, are drown on the horizontal axis. On the same axis, we see people busy with their routine activity and boredom or inactivity, in the form of work, games, wars, or obliviousness. Showing multiple events in the same frame, by dividing the space into horizontal layers and placing background and foreground scenes, at the top and bottom of the frame, sometimes reminds of the visual narrative methods of Iranian Miniature. Therefore, the works of Fariba Rahnavard, without the slightest similarity to Iranian miniature, in terms of subject, are connected to it in the least expected areas.
She says: “Disaster never ends. Whether in personal or social life. Some of my works refer to personal life, like the work in which a house has a chandelier and an absent person is there. Some of my works have social references. Generally, I can say I am dissatisfied and protest against the situations I see. Therefore, I might seem disappointed, however, I am very hopeful. Even if it is not clear from my works.” We are not much off track if we consider the distinct status of man in the dark and distorted ambiance of the canvas as a sign of what Fariba calls ‘Hope’. The bodies that are colorful despite the gray tonality of the work and sometimes become its center. It goes to the point that the eye is guided into their spots automatically and is forced to recognize these miserable creatures as the victim or the operator of the disaster. The overlapping layers have made an imaginative narration for each canvas, which find their own shapes in the mind of the audience. The genesis of the narrative is where the times twist into each other and it seems that events, parallel to each other, are taking place. This confrontation with the concept of space and time, which is frequently found in modern paintings, is, more than anything, the result of the modern approach in metaphysics. What confronts us with a new design of the world and reminds us that “all the universe is in motion. Every particle is only definable in its own position in time and place; therefore, what is defined is an event. ‘Particle-events’ are fundamental components of the world’s structure. These particle-events, continuous and bound in their totality, from the world of new physics: finite, but without boundaries, following the perpetual process of metamorphosis”. In Fariba Rahnavard’s works, this deadly motion and metamorphosis are shown through vertical and horizontal rough touches and spreading disintegrated particles in the general space of the work. Elements that together intensify the dynamism of “the disaster”. Adding all these to the light spread style, we find the artist picturing a world in which everything is layered and mysterious.”