To Amirhossein Akhavan “nature” is not an abstraction. “Nature,” he tells me, “is not the forest and the trees as we so often define it, but all is nature.” Nor is painting an abstraction. The subjects or objects of painting can only be understood in relation to the environment that they were conceived and to the environment in which they appear. Thus understood, subjects or objects lose their sub/objectivity and connect to a totality. This is the meaning of ecology – the science of seeing the relationship of organisms to their surroundings.
The ecology in which creatures of Akhavan appear is the gallery. Their habitat is an art gallery. This is important for us, as viewers (and especially collectors who will take them home), to keep in mind. As I see it, these creatures are not meant to bring out the “beauty” of nature. They are nature, framed in a particular way. They constantly push us to search for their mainspring outside them. What is absent here is the “the forest and the trees as we so often define….” Let me put it differently. The nature of these creatures is the gallery itself – Aaran Gallery. The technique and compositions that Akhavan employs leave us with no other way of seeing them. His creatures are not meant to evoke a sense of nostalgia. They are not “beautiful” in the classical, nature sense. We won’t get a chance to regret having lost what used to be. We find ourselves in an art gallery in the middle of Tehran, faced with pixelated images that from a distance can form an impressionistic whole. Tehran, in turn, is a pixelated ecology that draws insatiably from its natural surroundings. It attracts resources from near and far. It is a city connected to the planet in direct ways. As citizens of this city, we have access to products that come from all corners of the world, neatly packaged in a promise of good things to come. We, citizen, it, Tehran, want more – food, comfort, and the promise of good things to come. So on and so forth.
Tehran owes its existence to its outside. But it is difficult for us to see this. Even if we did, it is difficult to maintain a healthy connection to the dehors. Vast amounts of comestibles (dairy, meat, vegetables, and fruits), minerals (metals, precious stones, salt, oil and gas), and ethereals (low frequency electromagnetic fields) are at our disposal. Without these, city life will be inconceivable. Let me go on. Tehran is a megacity – an exception – not situated next to a major body of water. Its water comes from near and far, above and below ground. It expends its resources with reckless abandon. It wants more and it seeks more. It is ready to spend. Sometimes – often – the price paid for our comfort is beside the point. When the price is “beside the point” then we have pollution. Every time we turn on the ignition, every time we bite into a burger or negotiate with pomegranate seeds, we are connecting to a different ecosystem, a different geography, a different piece of the earth. But it is hard to see the connection because Tehran’s relationship to its surrounding is long distance.
The creatures of Akhavan bear the same relationship to their habitat (gallery) that we do to ours (Tehran) and that Tehran, in turn, does to larger Iran and the planet. As a particular species living on this planet, we have drawn boundaries to manage the boundless diversity of life around us. Change is welcomed insofar as it goes the way we can predict. But then, nothing is predictable. Life is a current, which means that nothing is solid, though the viscosity of each element differs. It, life, cannot be contained by the walls, dams, and structures that we build to secure stability.