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Fade to Black and White: A Conversation With Abol Bahadori, December 2019 Open Exhibit Best-In-Show Winner

Abol Bahadori with his prize-winning painting "Pulling Perspective."

“Pulling Perspective,” the painting awarded the December 2019 Open Exhibit Best-In-Show prize by juror Matthew McLaughlin, is a departure from what artist Abol Bahadori usually does. First of all it is black and white, a first for the self-described “colorist.”  Then, rather than draw or digitally design the grid-like effect on his work—both techniques that he is accustomed to employing—he utilized fishing net and spray paint instead. The result: an abstract work that acts as a type of Rorschach test for viewers to interpret as they will. Bahadori spoke with Emma Gould of The Art League Gallery about how “Pulling Perspective” pulled him in different directions creatively.

 

The Art League: Describe how “Pulling Perspective” came to be?

Abol Bahadori: Not long ago, I started a series called “Perspectives,” which I am glad was accepted for a solo show by the Art League in 2021. This painting, “Pulling Perspective,” belongs to that series, but is rather different from what I have done so far. Previously, I introduced a perspective grid to experiment with 3-D perceptions and traditional two-dimensional abstract paintings. As I drew the perspective grid with a ruler, I then realized that I wanted to be able to bend and curve the perspective itself. I could have done this digitally since I am also a graphic designer, but I wanted to physically try to do this, and replicating the grid on canvas wasn’t easy. [Art League painting instructor] Sharon Robinson introduced me to a technique that used fishing net on smaller gel print pieces in one of her classes. I immediately realized how I could use fishnet as a flexible grid that I could manipulate to bend and pull, so that is how “Pulling Perspective” was born. By throwing a fishnet on the canvas, which I had painted black, I pulled and arranged the net into a sculpted form and sprayed it white. Essentially, I used the net as a stencil with rather spontaneous and intuitive actions, as seen by the non-uniform shadows. I think it adds to the dynamic effect.

 

TAL: What does abstraction give you as a style of art in comparison to traditional or realistic paintings? Why is that important?

AB: I don’t limit myself to pure abstract anymore. Since I’ve introduced perspective to my abstract paintings, I am inevitably delving into some level of realism. My goal with abstraction has been to allow viewers to complete a painting in their mind by creating their own narrative from looking at my work. Abstraction really allows for the audience to engage in a composition I made. However, sometimes certain forms are born by accident and resemble reality so much so that it is tempting to push these moments into realism. From this, my more recent work has more obvious figurative and architectural elements, while balancing a level of play in abstraction for the viewer’s imagination.

 

Photo by Emma Gould

 

TAL: How is your medium an integral part of your work, and why do you work in the medium that you do?

AB: I am constantly experimenting with new media. For example, using spray paint was new for me. For the longest time, acrylic was my medium of choice, but recently I am using tissue paper, digital art that I create from a computer, collage, crayons, pastel, pencil, marker, and sand, too. I think experimenting with new media is as important as exploring different forms and colors.

 

TAL: What technical element is most important in your work—color, composition, line, etc.?

AB: Without a doubt color is the most important element for me. I consider myself a colorist. Having said that, “Pulling Perspective” is black and white. It is my first black and white painting ever! I originally created this painting as a foundation or background for a colorful piece that I was planning. However, I decided not to proceed with any color. The piece looked fully complete in black and white, and I realized color would actually take away from the pure forms in the composition. So, I think this painting helped me step away from color. Perhaps, I can’t say that color is the most important element for me anymore. [Laughter]

 

TAL: “Pulling Perspectives” draws attention to grids and the process of art itself. How does pulling and disfiguring expand the medium of painting? Also, expound on the thought process of a two-dimensional sculpture.

AB: Traditionally, the imitation of perspective belongs to realism and modern art tended to ignore the concept of perspective. I have always been fascinated by the rediscovery of perspective by Renaissance artists and was compelled to experiment with the notion of 3-D. This experimentation was not to introduce realism, but rather to add a new sensorium to my work—like the way some animals perceive their surroundings with sonar, echolocation, or a strong sense of smell. It’s something beyond our limited perception of color and form. As for bending the perspective, which is at play here, that action mimics sculpting. Sculpting and flat surface tend to obviously contradict one another, but technically I have “sculpted” the fishnet on the canvas for lack of a better word, and the result is rather physical and authentic looking.

 

Photo by Emma Gould

 

TAL: What do you want the viewer to come away with?

 AB: Nothing other than their own story. If every viewer sees something and is intrigued by my painting, I am happy. In the case of this painting, a friend told me she saw burst of a soccer net after a strong goal. Others tell me it resembles strange creatures. I am just delighted to hear all these stories.

 

TAL: Where do you see your work going next?

AB: I don’t want to limit myself to the “Perspective” series. I’ve learned that I am more creative when I am working on several series and techniques at the same time. My focus is on my upcoming solo show and I am glad I have a year or so to build it. I will continue experimenting with bending and recreating perspective for that show, but I will also keep developing other styles. In few words, I like to keep an open mind while I am experimenting.

I want to express my gratitude to The Art League, both for the wonderful classes I take here, and the gallery staff for all the recognitions that encourage all of us to keep making art. I would like to also acknowledge my great teachers at The Art League School, especially [painting instructor] Beverley Ryan and Sharon Robinson, for all their guidance and support.

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