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  • Provenance

    Leslie Tonkonow, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

  • Exhibited

    New York, Leslie Tonkonow, Ali Banisadr It Happened and It Never Did, 3 March - 23 April 2011
    London, BlainSouthern, Ali Banisadr At Once, 11 February - 21 March 2015, pp. 90-91, 236 (illustrated, pp. 90-91)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 2010, Ali Banisadr’s Nowhere is brimming with unbounded vitality. Rendered in remarkable detail, the composition hangs somewhere between figuration and abstraction; glimpses of forms, figures, flora and fauna emerge from the multitude of intricate brushstrokes that cultivate the surface of the canvas. Illuminated by flecks of golden warmth that ignite the lush hues of the earthy-brown shadows, botanical greens and indigo blues of the horizon create an effect of pictorial depth. This hints at a reality that has since been transformed by the artist’s unique vision, as the shimmering illusion coalesces in the viewer’s own unique interpretation of the composition: ‘the whole point of my work is that you bring your imagination to it, that you fill in the blanks, since they’re fragmented images’ (Ali Banisadr, quoted in conversation with Lilly Wei, ‘Ali Banisadr: Interview’, Studio International, 2 June 2014, online).

    As a synaesthete Banisadr experiences a crossing of the senses, and growing up in the intense turmoil of war-torn Iran, Banisadr used his synaesthesia to make sense of the trauma and violence that surrounded him: ‘I would make drawings based on the sounds I was hearing – bombs, air-raid sirens, windows breaking, all kinds of vibrations. This world was my internal world ever since I was a kid, and I wanted to find a way to connect to it’ (Ali Banisadr, quoted in conversation with Lilly Wei, ‘Ali Banisadr: Interview’, Studio International, 2 June 2014, online). The interplay between sound and colour inherently informs his painterly process: ‘why, when I do something visual, do I hear a sound? I didn’t know there was a name for it—synaesthesia. Reading about it and about [Wassily] Kandinsky talking about it was interesting. It was driving me to tap into my imagination and understand why senses are mixed…It’s this sound that guides me to press harder on the brush and lift off, or let go or stop there and then continue there. It’s a guidance’ (Ali Banisadr, quoted in conversation with Emily McDermott, ‘How Banisadr Holds Memory’, Interview Magazine, 28 February 2014, online). Kandinsky also experienced synaesthesia, and his abstract compositions often represent painterly reincarnations of sound; in the same way that Kandinsky’s Impression III (Concert) documents his visual interpretations of music, the present work is also influenced by Banisadr’s intrinsic connection between form, colour and sound, intuitively capturing the sensory effect of myriad colours and impressions that constitute his artistic consciousness.

    Banisadr also explains that hearing sounds directs his appreciation of other artworks, particularly in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, which strongly resonate with his synaesthetic perceptions. He acknowledges that Bosch’s sense of underlying mystery and dreamlike compositions have influenced his own work, and visual comparisons can be made between the Renaissance artist’s hallucinogenic creations and Banisadr’s abstract insinuations of the figurative originals. Banisadr is inspired by the way in which Bosch creates worlds entirely from the imagination, channelling unknown places within the psyche, and the complexity of his birds-eye compositions that draws the eyes of the viewer across the surface.

    Imbued with a palpable energy that gives rise to a symphony of colour and movement, Nowhere – as the title suggests - transports the viewer to an indeterminate, exotic space. Banisadr meticulously layers saturated pigments to create a vivid, surging kaleidoscope of colour: 'there is always motion in the work. I don’t like paintings to be still nor have a central point. I want the eyes to keep moving around the work, for there to be time for it to unveil itself…between order and chaos; I try to create order out of the chaos' (Ali Banisadr, quoted in Boris Groys, ‘Boris Groys in Conversation with Ali Banisadr’, Ali Banisadr: One Hundred and Twenty Five Paintings, London, 2015, p. 21). Rendered with a stunning intensity that alludes both to beauty and violence, Nowhere showcases Banisadr’s painterly brilliance in a remarkable visual fusion of the senses.

  • Artist Biography

    Ali Banisadr

    Ali Banisadr is an Iranian-American contemporary artist working in New York. Taking influence from the annals of art history as well as from memories of his childhood during the Iran-Iraq War, Banisadr creates harrowing whirlwinds of chaos and color on the surface of his canvases. He frequently describes his work in terms of tone, volume, and temperature; each canvas begins as Banisadr, who has synesthesia, reflects on the sounds and vibrations of his wartime childhood and develops the chaos until he has calmed the composition to a state of intelligibility.  

    Banisadr borrows equally from Persian miniature painting, Old Masters, and Abstract Expressionists alike. His dynamic Boschian compositions exist in a state of hazy uncertainty between abstraction and figuration, recreating the frenzied sensory traces of war. His work is represented in the collections of major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the British Museum, London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.  

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Property from an Important Private American Collection



signed and dated 'Ali Banisadr 2010' on the overlap
oil on linen
168 x 223.8 cm (66 1/8 x 88 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2010.

£260,000 - 360,000 

Sold for £297,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2018