Between Invitation and Intrusion: A conversation in form

Artists: Nasser Bakhshi, Babak Bidarian, Jason Noushin

Between Invitation and Intrusion: A Conversation in Form aims to interfere with our common understanding and expectations of portraiture. Instead of being overt in their representation, the works in the show explore the theme of identity all while maintaining a degree of mysticism. The artists have succeeded at tempting the viewer into exploring that which is being depicted while also making them uneasy with doing exactly so. The audience is meant to feel that their gaze is infringing on what is being shown. It is there that they find themselves between invitation and intrusion. Perhaps most indicative of this quality are Nasser Bakhshi’s magical boxes, serving as visual repositories that document his life. Either laid open or enclosed with a layer of glass, these boxes toy with the viewer’s curiosity. The objects left within them beckon to be rummaged through and individually studied. Yet, the intimate nature of these same objects, force the audience to feel that they are trespassing on the artist’s private property. In his paintings, Bakhshi continues to challenge the notion of exposure and visibility by refusing to provide a frontal view of his subjects. As a result, these portraits are both unsatisfying and salivating for obstructing our access to what is depicted.

In stark contrast to Bakhshi’s play on anonymity, Babak Bidarian’s adept treatment of light zeros in on the subjects at hand. His depiction of male sensuality entertains a voyeuristic fantasy, and forces a feeling of intrusion and subsequently, of unease; the viewer is made to feel that he/she is now involved in the subject’s secret life. This same intimacy is also evident in Bidarian’s other paintings where he chooses to illuminate otherwise autonomous figures in a crowd. This spotlight technique serves as a breach, leaving the depicted exposed and vulnerable to the outsider’s gaze. 

This same outsider becomes a guest in the work of Jason Noushin, whose various mediums lyrically explore his identity conflict. By transcribing English literature into Farsi script, Noushin attempts to bridge the gap between his British and Iranian identities. Although blatant in their display of self-discovery, Noushin’s pieces also communicate in a personalized code. His repetitive form allows him to symbolically erase the notion of singularity in cultural identity and allows the artist to redefine cultural heritage for himself. Between Invitation and Intrusion: A Conversation In Form is remarkable in its ability to remedy intrigue and unease, thus challenging the privilege of viewership.

By Layla M. Heidari


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