July - December 2013
Emirates Post Magazine (English)

July - December 2013
Emirates Post Magazine (Arabic)

July/August 2013
Harper's Bazaar


Islamic Arts Magazine

Painter, musician and performance artist Reza Derakshani was born in 1952, in Sangsar, a small village in the northeast of Iran. He grew up in a great black tent on the top of a mountain, among horses and fields of blue and yellow wild flowers. Reza moved from the study of constellations of light made by moonlight shining through tiny holes in the tent to the study of mathematics in high school, and visual arts in Tehran and the U.S. His nomadic childhood had an enormous impact on his appreciation for his surroundings and its natural beauty, which is so often evident in his works.

A child prodigy receiving his first commission at nine, he held his first solo exhibition at the renowned Ghandriz Gallery, Tehran at the age of nineteen. Graduating in 1976 from the faculty of Fine Art at the University of Tehran, he continued his studies at the Pasadena School of Art, California, USA. Returning to Iran, he taught Art and Graphic Design at the University of Tehran and the school of Decorative Arts. His teaching career was curtailed in 1983 following the Islamic Revolution, when he left Tehran to settle in New York for the next sixteen years. He later moved to Italy, eventually returning to Tehran for seven years before leaving his troubled homeland once again in 2010. Currently, Derakshani divides his time between studios in Dubai and Austin, Texas.

Derakshani’s passion for beauty and his nuanced perception of the light and dark of the world has found expression in many different forms, from music, graphic design, book illustration, film animation and calligraphy to studies in traditional and western classical visual arts. Yet it is within contemporary painting that he has experienced true liberation and fulfillment as an artist. The challenging techniques, innovation and mental stimulation inherent to contemporary art have led him to create a meditative solitude that results in pure freedom of self-expression. Reza’s work, known for its diversity and originality, has gained recognition for its fearless exploration of form and style, and the skill and vision necessary to merge an unbending tradition with a wild contemporary spirit.

Formally, Derakshani negotiates his practice between the figurative and the purely abstract. His visual vocabulary is indebted to Iranian styles of miniature painting and their colorful scenes of royalty at leisure, of hunting and polo tournaments, of pleasure gardens and secret lovers and of courtiers serenaded by scores of musicians. The canvases exhibited under the umbrella of Derakshani’s Miniature Series are anything but, consisting invariably of expansive and seemingly limitless surfaces, rich textural tapestries of shapes and colors. Figures seem temporally and spatially dislocated, extra-narrative, and at times so truncated they morph into pure form. The whole must be imagined from the part, from a kohl-rimmed eye, the shadow of a crown, the outline of a beast, like archaeological fragments fixed to a museum wall. Iconographic analysis, the intellectual comprehension of Derakshani’s personal myths and poetic allusions, are thus dependent on cultural understanding.

The artist clearly delights in the physicality of his media and indeed the very activity of art-making. He rapidly builds up layers of textures, often with unconventional materials like metal paints, tar or wax and pigments, supplemented with oils. All this, only to be interfered with, pulled with a pallet knife, corroded to reveal a glimpse of what lies beneath, fated to be concealed once more.

Though recent years have seen a veritable explosion of Iranian contemporary art production, only a handful of artists have truly been embraced by the international art world. Reza Derakshani is one of them. By investigating the essential nature of his cultural identity in a singularly original manner he has connected to the spirit of the most exciting art made internationally today.


For its inaugural exhibition, the gallery will present world-renowned Iranian artist Reza Derakshani in his second solo exhibition in London and, serendipitously, his second solo exhibition with the gallery. Derakshani is known for his driving passion to create timeless art that simultaneously addresses the deep social and cultural issues affecting contemporary Iran. He has gained worldwide recognition for his beautiful and nuanced studies – sometimes figurative, sometimes abstract, but always improvisational and spontaneous – that are political without being didactic. Best known for his large-scale and experimental use of materials, including glitter, soil, sand, tar, gold and silver leaf, he merges an unbending tradition with a wild contemporary spirit. For him, the creation of beauty is itself a revolutionary act with political consequences, especially in modern Iran. Hildebrand admires not only how Derakshani’s “blending of Persian iconography with a contemporary approach allows for a sensory exploration of colour and abstraction” but also how his work always “reflects the tumultuous and changing times that we live in.” What makes his work so relevant and compelling is the artist’s ability to seamlessly juxtapose classical Persian motifs with contemporary influences to evoke an underlying melancholic tone, a complex emotional hue inspired by Iran’s historical moment.

Vibrant glossy colours and a combination of figurative and abstract textures dominate the works in this exhibition — a stark contrast to Iran’s current political situation and a significant departure from the form and tone of his work in the last year, including his recent exhibition at the Salsali Private Museum in Dubai. This new embrace of colour comes from his deep-rooted love of classical Persian Miniatures. After a period of darkness, he has made a nostalgic return to colour, finding something essential in the light that suffuses his art and the traditional art of Iran. As he explains, “the focus of this series is the unending inspiration I have from the Persian Miniatures… they are full of life and colour and stories which are essential to us all.”

This new series of work, titled The Pink House Stories, returns thematically to a previous body of work: Garden Party. Derakshani revisits a party atmosphere, depicting the excitement of celebrating the joys of life and love. Fragments of Miniature painting suffuse the works, a reference to the Miniature tradition of depicting the celebratory moments. What Derakshani is exploring is how this common desire to celebrate has been transformed, rules of conduct exist not only for public spaces but also for private celebration of any joyful moment, which can be tightly regulated. For Derakshani, the genuine fear of parties being raided – of celebration being criminal, colours and sounds being restricted affects one’s mind-set, taking them to the other extreme. The faraway pink house stands not only for the dream of true celebration but also for the profound strength that people have shown to keep this fantastic fantasy alive under continued oppressive conditions. The parties continue because the spirit of joy is stronger than the force of punishment.

Derakshani’s works evoke contrasting and even conflicting feelings and experiences: harmony and chaos, joy and sadness, the light and dark aspects of life. They reflect the ambiguity and fullness of life. A master of challenging techniques, Derakshani has experimented with abstraction in his new canvases, exploring significant creative and philosophical moments from his beautiful and ancient culture. These works, notable for their luminous atmospheres, also represent a reimagining of his own artistic past: images and symbols common in his oeuvre reappear, but the new mixing and layering techniques he has used here highlight the maturity and mastery he has achieved.



Painter, musician, and performance artist Reza Derakshani’s work has been exhibited and collected widely throughout the world. Since his first solo exhibition at the renowned Ghandriz Gallery, Tehran at the age of nineteen, he has participated in more than 50 solo shows, group shows and performances, including his first London exhibition at the Osbourne Samuel Gallery in 2010. His works are in high-profile collections such as the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Leon Black in NYC, Sting and Trudie Styler in London, the Salsali Private Museum in Dubai, the Farjam Collection in Dubai, and the collection of the Royal family of Abu Dhabi. Born in Iran, Derakshani studied visual arts both in Iran and the USA after he earned a diploma in Mathematics. He currently divides his time between studios in Dubai and Austin, Texas.