In the suite of nine paintings that comprise Azadeh Elmizadeh’s debut solo exhibition, Subtle Bodies, translucent veils of colour forego the rules of perspective to suggest form through colour’s own depth and vitality. Compositionally and processually in conversation with Persian miniature paintings, Elmizadeh’s durational process of layering and sanding into pigment discloses the history of the painting itself, thus rendering the frame both a site of spatial and aesthetic experimentation and historical excavation. Through such a frame, the paintings are a palimpsest in which a private, ancient scene exists within and through a painterly evocation of the tactility of bright fabrics, blown glass, and ceramics.
Indeed, it is Elmizadeh’s engagement with the metaphysical possibilities of the medium as informed by twelfth-century Sufi cosmologies and their attendant mythologies that give the works their shapeshifting, ludic quality. Subtle Bodies provision the aesthetic experience itself; works like Canopy, or Diving Messenger, enact what philosopher Gianni Vatimo describes as “the breaches or openings through which something that is not a being or irreducible to a being comes forth”. At their best, says Elmizadeh, these works resist gravity by mirroring the weightless, flickering image of the imagination.
Subtle Bodies is an exciting exploration of the deliberate and the aleatory, of the tension and play between painterly vision and the demands and unpredictability of the canvas. Perhaps what underpins these images most of all is their expression of a historically and culturally situated ontological indeterminacy, one that importantly refuses the abstracted self-referentiality of Western contemporary painting styles. Instead, Subtle Bodies offers up a pensive reflection on the liminality of existence, occasioned here by cross-cultural displacements, and thus generously expands the sorely limited discursive and aesthetic frames through which we make meaning in the world.
- Mel Mikhail
Azadeh Elmizadeh (b.1987, Tehran, Iran) is a visual artist based in Toronto who works between painting and collage. She holds an MFA from the University of Guelph (2020) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from OCAD (2016) and Tehran University (2010). Elmizadeh has recently exhibited at Birch Contemporary (Toronto, ON) and Boarding House Gallery (Guelph, ON).
Images courtesy the artist and Franz Kaka, Toronto