Behrang Karimi, the painting of a human all too hu...

Behrang Karimi, the painting of a human all too human

Creative minds atypically live the relationship with the world, probably because such ingenuities have something too human to feel attracted to what the individual normally ignores. So much so that the writer Henry Miller, aware of this subtle perceptive capacity, claimed to possess: «A microscopic eye for the defect […] that for me was the only beauty of the object. If it was perverse it was also healthy, considering just as I was not destined to belong to this world that rose around me». This position of privilege seems to belong also to the artist Behrang Karimi (1980, Shiraz, Iran), whose works are on display, until 15 November 2022, at the Roman gallery ERMES ERMES in the exhibition entitled Bacchus Madness Walking Experience.

Installation view, Behrang Karimi, “Bacchus Madness Walking Experience”, ERMES ERMES, ph. credit Luana Rigolli, courtesy the artist and ERMES ERMES, Rome

There is no doubt that the attention to what is aesthetically unconventional is the reason that led the space – founded and directed by Ilaria Leoni since 2015 – to propose an exhibition dedicated to this artist, so as to be placed in the panorama of the galleries of the city as an interesting digression. It is a propitious opportunity both to offer a constant calendar and for always intelligent exhibition choices, departing from the many repetitive and sometimes questionable proposals that the Capital recently proposes. Moreover, it is not to be underestimated the characteristic environment of the space, which is peculiar for the tiles used as floor covering as evidence of the place that in the past was used as an interior decoration workshop, as mentioned in the characteristic sign of the store and deliberately left intact. The exhibition dedicated to Behrang Karimi is stylistically clear: the works are selected with balance and exposed in the environment following the main points of observation on the walls. In this neutral space, Karimi’s paintings present a timbre of research impregnated with primitivism with scents characterized by definite traits of restlessness, such as to assume characteristics of an intimate art, which is distinguished by being “human, too human”.

Installation view, Behrang Karimi, “Bacchus Madness Walking Experience”, ERMES ERMES, ph. credit Luana Rigolli, courtesy the artist and ERMES ERMES, Rome

The main theme of the exhibition is the god Bacchus, which is acutely reinterpreted by the artist according to an unusual contemporary key, so as to make it emerge as an individual marked by an uncertain ratio. This is the result of a particular position of Karimi, which pushes him to move away from the “superomist” representation to prefer, rather, a representation of a human scratched by fears and formal imperfections; It is splendid and suggestive the portrait depiction in which the artist imagines him immersed in an existential absence, with his eyes wide open that reveal a slight sense of abandonment, and physically distinguished by a subtle degree of imperfection. Thus, Karimi, like the aforementioned Miller, seems to turn attention to what is aesthetically disarming for its emotional clarity. From this position painting does not emerge as a useful tool to imitate and emulate, but rather suitable to interpret and overcome the real data, and then progress towards a figuration full of formal primordial. These are characteristics that paradoxically lead us to evaluate Karimi’s research for its anti-archeological character, since the study of the ancient is an honest pretext to overcome the archaic, which is manipulated freely. From this attitude the exhibited works are those of a reactionary painter, according to whom the form never follows the function, but lets itself be directed by the vision of a laborious “worm of time” that wears out the atmosphere of his paintings. This happens in particular in the painting depicting an ancient sculpture head surrounded by an impalpable, dull and indefinite light, so that instead of transmitting the heaviness, the material expresses a lightness that is well connected to the atmosphere of a sluggish and approximate light.

Installation view, Behrang Karimi, “Bacchus Madness Walking Experience”, ERMES ERMES, ph. credit Luana Rigolli, courtesy the artist and ERMES ERMES, Rome

The accompanying text of the exhibition, written by Karimi himself, does not go unnoticed, as it seems to tear the soul of the spectator, until catapulting him into a seraphic ardor played on the character of Bacchus. The publication, printed in limited editions, is intentionally and confusingly assembled by the artist and illustrated with subjects worthy of a dreamlike medieval labyrinthine bestiary. In addition, the interest in fragmentation also motivates the figurative component that returns prominently in the limited, but enjoyable, works on display, where there are numerous fragments of bodies. In particular, the attention paid to the hands, of which it is not easy to identify to whom they belong, is treated as an element of transfer between us and “a body”, as a mythical element and bearer of spiritual scars, generated by a pictorial machine placed between thought and vital drives. Moreover, since Karimi intends to reveal the hidden emotions of her Bacchus errabondo, she tends stubbornly to suggest also the path of her character in time: and here opens a transitory interlude with the work 14 Century, painted on a fragment of a 14th century manuscript, which tells how the French Duchy of Berry commissioned paintings on fairy tales.

Behrang Karimi, “Bacchus Madness”, 2022, olio su lino, 72×85 cm, ph. credit Luana Rigolli, courtesy the artist and ERMES ERMES, Rome

Finally, another element of particular interest that figures the works on display is the lexical dryness of the captions, all ordinary, simple and straightforward; written, at the same time, as clues of a logical process that causes Karimi to perform lexical and pictorial purges to ensure that the realizations appear first of the concepts of art and then of real paintings. With this the pictorial method of Karimi turns out to be abductive type, then investigative and philological, which is wary of references and evidence, so as to consider, on the other hand, the paintings as of «Excerpts of visual poems, essences of fragments in which we stand there in front of listening to the breath that every work implores».

Behrang Karimi, “Metà Testa”, 2022, olio su lino, 33×33 cm, ph. credit Luana Rigolli, courtesy the artist and ERMES ERMES, Rome

In conclusion, in Karimi there is no appeal to the ideal and divine composure of the god Bacchus, since he welcomes «the gift of God, because he has ceased to think of God». Thus, from his point of view privileging in truth, the nodosity of the pictorial signs and the personal empathic curiosity, reveals a sensitive pictorial work rich in formal elegance, intimate movements, private abandonments, details of a divine body that in the end turns out to be “human too human”.

Maria Vittoria Pinotti


Behrang Karimi, Bacchus Madness Walking Experience
30/09 – 15/11/2022
Via Dei Banchi Vecchi 16, 00186 Rome


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