The Third Line welcomes back Amir H. Fallah with his third solo show in Dubai, The Collected, which investigates the complex relationship between patronage and art making, collector and artist, and the dynamics of the creative process in today’s art world. All the paintings in the show are pre-sold, commissioned portraits, where the artist exercised complete artistic authority to manipulate the image according to his own interpretation. The process involved initial collaboration with the commissioner, a performative component in the staging, and the element of surprise in the reveal of the works to the patrons for the first time during the show preview.
In his new body of work, Amir explores classical and renaissance portraiture traditions employing a critical approach by subverting the mechanisms of control. Art history boasts of countless examples of commissioned portraiture, where images conceal the patron’s physical identities and instead feature material possessions as a sign of stature and wealth, and solely the patron determined the final depiction of their identity. In this case, the artist exerts control over aesthetic and conceptual decisions, with the process relying heavily on trust and a powerful agreement to hand over creative authority back to the artist. The paintings will be revealed to the patrons for the first time at the exhibition opening.
Amir visited collectors’ residences in Dubai more than a year ago and staged the portraits by gathering various material belongings from within their homes as markers of their identity, particularly gravitating toward those mundane objects that seem loaded with sentimental meaning - a worn afghan, an idiosyncratic plant, a figurine or running shoes. After carefully assembling the composition through collaborative efforts with the subject, he photographed the setting and used the image as a starting point. The works further changed in his studio when transferred onto the canvas and evolved through his personal interventions and stylized interpretation, telling the patrons’ personal histories through his eyes.
The surfaces are layered with collage and paint and the imagery often reflects the artist’s own cultural alliances: references to Persian miniatures may appear in the form of careful borders along the edge of a canvas and blankets may start to resemble the long veils associated with Eastern cultures. Images are embellished and details introduced or omitted based on extemporaneous decisions, and the initial source photographs are completely obscured. Sometimes, subjects appear in dramatically neoclassical poses, lounging across a wooden table or perched on a pedestal. Faces and other obvious markers are concealed and the only identification is through personal elements that surround them. For example The Triangle In The Shattered Square includes a skateboard, a bottle of spray paint, a digital camera, and geometrical patterns picked from ceramic tiles at the collectors residence.
Amir approaches his current paintings as an investigative and analytical historian. Aside from unraveling a different perspective to art historical portraiture traditions and the dynamics of modern day art collection and art making, he also reflects upon concerns of identity and representation that are central to his practice.