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Ideologues of the Game and Other Seekers of the End

Majid Fathizadeh

Ab-Anbar Gallery, London, 23 January – 24 February 2024

Review by Sana Nassari

The exhibition of Majid Fathizadeh’s Ideologues of the Game and Other Seekers of the End is a visceral journey into a realm where hope is abandoned upon entering. Curated by Hannah Feldman at Ab-Anbar Gallery in London and spread over two floors, Fathizadeh’s prophetic and apocalyptic paintings evoke a profound sense of introspection, leaving visitors to respond in contemplative silence. 

Fathizadeh was born in 1977 in the city of Zahedan, near Iran’s eastern borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, a city which saw the mass shooting of protestors by the Islamic regime’s security forces in 2022. This is Fathizadeh’s first solo exhibition outside his homeland and it showcases a rich tapestry of techniques developed over the last two decades, from watercolour and drawing to oil painting and sketchbook art. While the core themes and concepts explored have remained consistent over two decades, more recent pieces demonstrate a heightened sophistication in composition as part of the artist’s evolution since his professional debut in 2003.

The exhibition features a diverse array of artworks in varying sizes, each contributing to an overall narrative. The brutality of existence is captured in large paintings at the forefront of the exhibition, portraying apocalyptic chaos through various humanesque figures. Among them is a piece called Red Rose (2023) featuring figures in orange vests, reminiscent of rescue teams or firefighters, that subtly alludes to the 2017 collapse during a fire of the Plasco Building in Tehran, which became a symbol of political incompetence and corruption in Iran. Open to interpretation, the composition also allows it to resonate with the contemporary tragic event of the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Red Rose is echoed by another painting on the opposite wall, Worm’s Hole (2023), depicting a tumultuous crowd – within which are three figures holding books, possibly representing the Abrahamic religions – and offering an overpowering portrayal of chaos in a religio-historical context.

Executed on monumental canvases, Fathizadeh’s paintings of a chaotic cosmos populated by amorphous, awry creatures powerfully convey the inner essence of our era. In harmony with the title of the exhibition, this skewed rendition of the humanesque might symbolise politicians engaged in a relentless game that pushes the universe to the brink of itself and on to its end.

In a half-hidden alcove of the basement at Ab-Anbar Gallery, a small painting, Dying (2010-2021), captures a poignant moment – a lifeless body lying on the ground, devoid of explicit gender but marked by a swollen belly, perhaps symbolising the Earth Mother mourning the depletion of life’s essence. The concepts elaborately explored in many of the artworks in this exhibition reach their peak in this particular piece, which serves as a stark commentary on environmental decay and the impending demise of humanity.

Fathizadeh intentionally sidesteps gender-based representations of violence and challenges artistic norms prevalent in Classical, Post-Renaissance and Modern art. Employing monochromatic or muted colour palettes, he masterfully crafts alarmingly dark scenes, showcasing a commitment to his personal conviction above the trends of the art world. This exhibition of his work, with its prophetic undertones and apocalyptic visions, prompts a reflection on the state of our world and the consequences of humanity’s collective actions.

Image courtesy of Ab-Anbar Gallery