Esmaeil Ghanbari


In short: these paintings are lean, pure meat, no fat…. It would have been a pity if Rembrandt had not painted his carcass of beef.

There are two kinds of blindness: white and black. One is when there is no light to see, another is when it is so bright that you cannot see. There are two kinds of lies: one that is so unreal that it is untrue; the other is so real that covers the truth. There are two ways of covering: to wrap or to frame. Wrappings can be removed, but a frame attaches to its subject matter. There are artists who wrap and there are artists who frame. The good thing about Esmail’s paintings is that they have no frames and cannot be framed either. He avoids wrapping.

There are two kinds of sick eyes: those with little appetite and those with bulimia. Some see nothing but hunger out of hunger, and some have no appetite for looking. In the midst of satisfied and hungry eyes, there is meat in Esmail’s works as well as morning tea brewing on the campfire that burnt throughout the night.

There are two kinds of not seeing: to close your eyelids or to stare at something.
In another age, you could say that the good thing about Esmail is that he looks at what others do not see. Nowadays everyone is looking for something that others have not seen, in order to frame it. Once framed, it disappears. It can no longer be looked at.
There is so much in these works that is good for the eye.

It is a strange feeling to know you are the only one awake. The half-asleep grabs your arm: ‘Why don’t you sleep?’ You embarrass not only yourself, but also others. In Esmail’s works there is someone who cannot sleep.

Once it strikes you, you never forget it: I was seven when it appeared to me that whatever goes out of the cone of my sight vanishes into thin air. Objects conspire behind my back and decide how to behave in front of me. Just like students who behave properly when the teacher turns away from the blackboard towards them. If such delusion were real, then seeing could no longer prove that things stay where they are. The gaze actually put things in place. It produced them.

To throw a glance, take a quick peek, rivet one’s gaze or the eyes: looking is always considered a deed of some sort. It is as if the gaze presses upon objects. The power of an artwork is measured according to the pressure exerted by the artist’s gaze. They expect of a gaze, to produce things, to put things in place. Yet, Esmail’s gaze does not aim at taming images. He does not cook reality or point the flashlight of his gaze towards objects with the intention of finding the unseen and showing it behind showcases. He wrestles with life. He does not contribute to the huge pile of images, to the oversaturated archive. These paintings are of no use to those who are not alive. Esmail could not care less. I hope he keeps on doing that in future. He does not report or record things. I wish he continues to avoid it in futures. He does not inform, yet causes regret and pity. The credibility of his gaze is based upon the credibility of a certain type of life. You do not appreciate it? Your loss. You gazed in vain.

These paintings are cave paintings. There is a difference between a matador and he who milks reality. Composition! Harmony! Colour perspective! Yes, of course! This brushstroke should have been a little to the left and that one a bit higher! You are absolutely right!

There is madness in these works. One can feel the pulse: blood jumps in their veins. His artworks do not have pocket handkerchiefs or bowties. Without Renoir’s disgust! Without Seurat’s superficiality! Without Jeff Koons’s shamelessness! Where Esmail stands a certain kind of universal idiocy cannot reach. Idiocy is not interested in going there. They pass each other: the sick gaze is reserved for the sick eyes!

In spite of the eyes saturated with light, keep on looking Esmail!

Bavand Behpoor