Alireza Varzandeh

The Cologne-based artist Alireza Varzandeh reveals day-to-day life, the structures and customs of society to us as if through a looking glass. From boisterous beach scenes to urban construction workers, passers-by and cyclists in traffic, people walking in the park, in rain and shine, to extremely colourful floral still life scenes – there does not seem to be any subject that is unworthy of painting or uninteresting from the composition perspective for this artist, who was born in Persia in 1963.

As if he were using a zoom lens, Alireza Varzandeh creates extreme close-ups of selected scenes of vibrant, fast-paced contemporary life and brings them to a standstill for a brief moment.
The viewer is spontaneously and unexpectedly drawn into the pictorial narrative and cast under the spell of his works thanks to the extensive color palette, purposeful placement of shadings, reflections and light accents.
As when adjusting the focus of a camera lens, the motifs of the paintings are initially sketched on canvas in abstract form, then applied in great detail in oil, only to be subsequently painted over again, thus creating an abstract, more objective view.
During this work process, the artist himself already appears to go through the individual steps that the viewer also experiences when standing before the completed work – alternation between close-up and long-distance views as well as simultaneous recognition and blurring of the subject of the painting. The effect that is generated is a seemingly abstract and literally vibrating surface texture that virtually forces the viewer to maintain a certain distance in order to be able to absorb the painting’s motif in its entirety. For it is only by gaining some distance from the canvas that it is possible to combine the ostensibly expressive interplay of light and colour into a greater whole in our mind’s eye. The paintings themselves do not impose any concrete perspective; on the contrary, the artist seems to take advantage of the viewer’s movement in front of the canvas in order to intensify the dynamics of the pictorial narrative by constantly changing the angle of view.
The pictorial abstraction that is achieved through expressive over-painting of the picture’s surface leads to blurring of all individual facial features of the people portrayed. That essentially creates human figures with a lack of individual characteristics, thus allowing every viewer to identify with what is depicted and thus maintaining a link between picture and viewer.
Inspired by the use of light in the paintings of Rembrandt and those of the Impressionists, Alireza Varzandeh transplants those historical approaches to the colour and light effects of our era. Movement and dynamics of the respective pictorial narrative are transported to the canvas in an abstractly expressive fashion by means of rapid brushwork in the form of systematic over-painting of the underlying image that was previously created in an almost photo-realistic manner. Objective shapes are dissolved into free-form areas of light and colour, the facial expressions and gestures of the people depicted are transformed into fields of tension and dynamic sequences of action that convey the moods that are experienced to the viewer and put the momentary standstill that was captured previously into motion again.
This work method, which initially seems destructive and which dissolves the manifest perfection of the depicted subjects into free-from shapes, produces paintings that – in and of themselves, without any interpretation of the pictorial motifs – represent the current spirit of our age and its fast-paced social structures and are simultaneously capable of fascinating the human eye thanks to their powerful interplay of colours and shapes.
The objective of the artist does not appear to lie in a desire to realise what he has observed as a true-to-nature snapshot in painted form, and thus to compete with photography or even with Nature itself. His goal is to identify the dynamic structures and sequences of movement, capture them on canvas and thus transcend the limits of painting – its purported lack of capability of reporting on a continuous event or recording motion itself.
For the viewer it is hardly possible to perceive only that one single moment, the instant of standstill in the midst of the movement of the occurrence. Quite sub-consciously, he associates a before and after based on his own sphere of experience, classifies what he is seeing into a context and thus contributes towards the creation of a narrative structure within the picture. In this way, the viewer himself is entrusted with an important position within the development of the pictorial concept.
The artist very deliberately implies the participation of the viewer, thus again achieving an interrelationship between the pictorial space and the viewer’s space at the content level. On the one hand, the pictorial motifs gathered from day-to-day life make it possible for nearly every viewer to identify with them; on the other, the contextual understanding of the viewer serves to create a narrative level so that the complete message of the painting only emerges with the aid of the viewer’s participation.
However, this proximity, which the artist generates between the viewer and the work of art, is interrupted once again by the spatial distance from the picture that the viewer must maintain in order to even be able to comprehend the motif of the painting.
Therefore, the result is constant alternation between proximity and distance, motion and standstill, in terms of the design elements that Alireza Varzandeh uses in his painting as well as with respect to the content-related message. Moreover, the viewer seems to be earmarked as an essential participant in every regard, which consequently forces him leave the role of a merely passive observer behind.

(Stephanie Hentschel)

Solo exhibitions (selection)

2014
Solo show, Art Karlsruhe, Projektraum Knut Osper (Katalog)
Kulturzentrum Bad Homburg
2013
Solo show, Art Karlsruhe, Projektraum Knut Osper (Katalog)
Projektraum Knut Osper (Katalog)
2012
Solo show, Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Kampl (Katalog)
Galerie Michael Nolte Münster
2011
Projektraum Knut Osper (Katalog)
2010
Galerie Dagmar Schmidla Köln
Galerie Kampl München
Galerie Dagmar Schmidla Köln
2008
Galerie Joy of Peace Köln (Katalog)
2007
Galerie Josef Nisters, Speyer (Katalog)
2004
Galerie Josef Nisters, Speyer
2003
Galerie Josef Nisters, Speyer
2001
Galerie Peter Tedden (Katalog)
Baker & Mc Kenzie Berlin, Kurator: Galerie Timm Gierig (Katalog)
2000
Baker & Mc Kenzie Frankfurt, Kurator: Galerie Timm Gierig (Katalog)
1999
Galerie Incontro Eitorf
1996
Basement Galerie Siegburg
Galerie Seidel Köln
1993
Stadtmuseum Siegburg (Katalog)
1989
Brandt-Galerie Köln
1987
Brückentor Galerie Traben-Trarbach

Group exhibitions (selection)

2015
St’Art Strasbourg, Galleria Stefano Forni
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Barbara von Stechow und Galerie Kampl
Kunst 15 Zürich, Galerie Barbara von Stechow
2014
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Barbara von Stechow und Galerie Kampl
Galerie Barbara von Stechow
Kunst 14 Zürich, Galerie Barbara von Stechow
2013
Projektraum Knut Osper
Art & Antique, Galerie Barbara von Stechow, Wiesbaden
Art Fair Köln, Projektraum Knut Osper (Katalog)
Kunst 13 Zürich, Galerie Barbara von Stechow
2012
Galerie Michael Nolte, open haus 2012, Münster
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Kampl (Katalog)
Galerie Simon Nolte, „ Art in the air“, Mallorca, Spanien
Projektraum Knut Osper, „Accrochage“, Köln
Galerie Simon Nolte, „Summertime“, Mallorca, Spanien
Galerie Michael Nolte, „artists night“, Münster
Art Fair Köln, Projektraum Knut Osper (Katalog)
Kunst 12 Zürich, Galerie Barbara von Stechow
2011
Galerie Noah, Augsburg
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Kampl
Projektraum Knut Osper, Köln
Galerie Kampl, München
Transformationen, München
Art Fair Köln, Projektraum Knut Osper
2010
Galerie Paradiso, Insel Rab, Koatien
Galerie Kampl, München
Erlengut, Erlenbach/ Schweiz
Art fair Köln, Galerie Kampl
Galerie Makek, Zagreb, Koatien (Katalog)
2009
Galerie Noah, Augsburg
2008
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Josef Nisters
2007
Galerie Josef Nisters, 50 + 1
2006
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Josef Nisters
2005
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Josef Nisters
2004
Galerie Josef Nisters, Arbeiten auf Papier, Speyer
2003
Art Frankfurt, Galerie Peter Tedden
Kunst Köln 2003, Galerie Peter Tedden, Messe Köln
Galerie Josef Nisters, Speyer
2002
Kunstverein Oberhausen
2001
Kunst Köln 2001, Galerie Peter Tedden, Messe Köln
Galerie Incontro, Eitorf
Kunstmesse Amsterdam, Galerie Peter Tedden
Galerie Benninger, Köln
2000
Kunst Köln 2000, Internationale Kunstmesse Köln, Galerie Incontro
Bauconsult Köln, Kurator: Galerie Timm Gierig, Köln, (Katalog)
1999
Junge Kunst bei Baker & Mc Kenzie Frankfurt, Kurator: Galerie Timm Gierig
Galerie Incontro Eitorf
1996
Sondershow Interstoff (intervoice) Messe Frankfurt
Galerie Seidel Köln
1995
Große Kunstausstellung NRW, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf (Katalog)
Köln Kunst 4, Josef- Haubrich- Kunsthalle Köln (Katalog)
„Young art of New York“ Galerie 68 elf Köln
1993
„the end“ Galerien Barthel und Tetzner und 68elf Köln (Katalog)
Große Kunstausstellung NRW, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf (Katalog)
1992
Köln Kunst 3, Josef- Haubrich- Kunsthalle Köln (Katalog)
Unorte II, Galerie 68elf Köln, Bonn, Berlin
Große Kunstausstellung NRW, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf (Katalog)
1991
Große Kunstausstellung NRW, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf (Katalog)