Garden Of The Soul
June 18 – September 3, 2021
A day and a night in the Garden of the Soul
Every day on this earth is a miracle, but one so familiar and persistent that we mostly forget its wonder and mystery.
From our perspective, standing on Earth and looking up into the heavens, the Sun appears to rise each morning in the east and climb to its apogee at midday before sinking slowly through the afternoon sky to set in the west.
Of course, it is we who are moving, spinning ever eastwards at 1,600 km per hour around the Sun. Impossibly hot, massive and distant, it burns, at its core, at 15 million degrees Celsius, is 1.4 million km across and its light travels through 150 million km of cold, empty space to reach us in what scientists call the Goldilocks Zone – a thin band of space where the temperature is just right, neither too hot nor too cold, to support life.
By any possible metric, we and everything we know, are cosmically unlikely.
Standing on a summer’s day by the shore of the Mediterranean where civilization has flourished for so long, these brutally inhuman facts seem like fiction, abstract and unrelated to our existence rather than fundamental descriptions of it. It is precisely in the gap created by the incommensurability between what we know of the universe and our lived experience of it, that human culture grows with its myths and rituals, religious and artistic, and all their attendant meanings.
In this new body of vibrantly chromatic paintings, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar presents works imagined in this essay as representing a journey through a day and a night in the Garden of the Soul.
The Garden of the Soul is a metaphorical space in which we encounter our own soul, symbolised as a garden – an organic force to be cultivated and cherished through the various stages of our lives. It also reminds us of actual gardens designed for contemplation and spiritual connection.
In their extraordinary and various use of colour, these twelve paintings take us through the cardinal points of day and night; dawn, midday, dusk and midnight. Whether you are doing so onscreen or have the chance to do so in person I would encourage you to spend time looking closely at these paintings, from afar and then up close, immersing yourself in their microcosmic worlds.
Garden of the Soul by the Sea is an epic, expansive painting, full of myriad shades of blues and fiery flashes of contrasting colour.
The liberal use of sand in the paint mixture provides texture (seen in the detail shots) and serves to soak up light, giving the painting its powerful sense of depth and allowing for a subtle range of blue hues, among them; azure, navy, lapis and aquamarine.
Just above the centre, three patches of bright orange, flecked with yellow, seem to burst through from the depths onto the surface of the painting.
Elsewhere, close looking reveals passages of colour that go oddly unnoticed on casual inspection – purples, reds and greens – and intermittent streaks and striations of white.
At Dawn and In Beauty, with their wonderful warmth and colour harmonies bring with them, the uplifting spirit of dawn. Joyous bright reds and blues give way to mellow pastel pinks and yellows. Tree of Hope, meanwhile, is a painting of balance and calm, with its gentle shift from deeper blues, purples and red on the left-hand side to the lighter shades of and beige right-hand side.
Embodying, imaginatively speaking, with gorgeously vibrancy the intensity of the Mediterranean sun at midday when the heat haze can bend vision itself, are a pair of powerful paintings; In Colour and At Noon. Jazz-like in their riotous riffs through colour they exemplify Behnam-Bakhtiar’s signature peinture raclée style by which builds the surface of each work by scraping and blending together passages of bright-hued pigment into one another. The resulting paintings are simmering fields of immanence.
When I look at Behnam-Bahkitar’s paintings I also see extraordinary manifestations of energy. For him the acts of both making and appreciating art are opportunities for connection with the deeper parts of ourselves. Creativity encourages the healing of the everyday alienation of modern life with its traumas, minor and major and its systemic sense of spiritual displacement.