Ali Banisadr: At Once, Blain Southern, London

Ali Banisadr’s first ever UK solo show emerges as a series of oil paintings created over the last two years, including a 7-metre long triptych, his largest work to date. Banisadr’s fantastical landscapes, populated with grotesque hybrids in a perpetual state of frenzy, oscillate between the abstract and the figurative.

His characters – combinations of animal, god, machine and human – are captured in whirling, exuberant brushstrokes. There is a sense of a heaven and earth; in the lower half are temporal struggles, physical conflicts and angst, while in the air each character seems more at peace.

For example in The Lesser Lights, 2014, below a dripping lilac sky a group of hybrids are engaged in some chaotic communion – a battle, a pilgrimage or a bacchanal – while the piece’s title is drawn from the Book of Genesis to suggest that this setting is hell. Another work, The Lower Depths, 2014, features a lake of acidic yellows from which a giant animal struggles to escape, in front of this is a gaited human leg, smothered by a prehistoric bird, while a bare female figure flies above a beast’s head. As with much of Banisadr’s work, the viewer is left feeling that the luscious brushstrokes and layered washes before them may dissolve at any point.

Banisadr’s historical inspirations are extensive: Persian miniaturists, Kandinsky, Marinetti, Veronese, Richter, Abstract Expressionism and the nightmarish visions of Bosch and Brueghel appear alongside a range of literary influences, and contemporary motifs drawn from popular culture. Sound is also integral to Banisadr’s practice, an element which began when he was a child growing up in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war.

Here he drew on paper the sounds of bombing and air-raids to make sense of what was happening; he explains ‘When I begin a painting, it is always based on an internal sound. As soon as I apply the brush, the sound begins, and I am able to compose the work based on the sounds I hear as I’m painting. It is the force that drives the whole painting and helps me compose the work and pull everything together.’

Ali Banisadr: At Once, 11 February – 21 March, Blain Southern, 4 Hanover Square, London, W1S 1BP. For more information visit

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1. Ali Banisadr, The Lesser Lights (2014).