18 January 2023–28 February 2023

The Missing Witness

By Behrang Samadzadegan

Leila Heller Gallery

Leila Heller Gallery is pleased to announce artist Behrang Samadzadegan’s solo show ‘The Missing Witness’ opening on 18th January 2023.

Starts 18 January 2023

Ends 28 February 2023

Venue Leila Heller Gallery

Warehouse 86/87


Born and raised in a country where becoming engrossed with socio-political history is an inevitable burden upon birth, it was only natural for Behrang Samadzadegan to be immersed in the relationship between socio-political history and art for the past decade. He has set out to work by painting the recent past he had not experienced first hand. Behrang tried to “imagine and recreate this history by painting its ambiguous and veiled aspects.” Later, he concluded, “at some point, history becomes a subjective incident for the artist in which fantasy and aesthetics play a more prominent role than historical truth.” Is a direct relationship between art and history even plausible? Or does the artist, similar to a historian, distort history? He decided that his work exploring the history and then translating it into the language of painting amounted to an unedited and distorted rendition of history, which again is not based on a historical testimony. Subsequently, the exhibition is titled ‘The Missing Witness’. Painting has always had an intrinsic correlation with the recording of historical events; however, even if art claims it attests to history, it is not an eyewitness. Instead, it depicts history by relying on subjectivity, making the result unedited and distorted.

Through intricate interwoven narratives, Behrang’s work draws a clear connection to the tradition of Iranian painting (or what is more commonly known as Persian Miniature Painting). This sentiment is echoed in the colorful margins with forms diverging from them, and the way his subject matter carries a trace of history while refusing devotion to historical facts. Moreover, Behrang devises vertical compositions inspired by a combination of seventeenth to nineteenth-century Western art and Iranian art, continuously paying homage to the tradition of Iranian painting. Like miniaturists of the past, the artist does not shy away from dipping his brush in bright colors. That being said, the color palette seems to, first and foremost, be a playground for the artist to amuse himself by whimsically exploring an array of colors.

Behrang began painting large watercolors ten years ago to experience a more physical and intimate relationship with painting. Later, watercolor served as a metaphor for the movements in history. As he explains, “similar to any revolution or political movement in history, the painter may foresee the final desired outcome, but accidents and mistakes can deviate the artist from his original path. After every mistake, he is coerced to advance in the direction of the consequences following that error. For this reason, watercolor equates to history as it moves forward with predictions and swerves its course in response to every irreversible mistake that, comparable to history, cannot be erased, whitened, or reset.” Thus, the works of 'The Missing Witness' collection are not concerned with reconstruction and representation, rather they are pursuing the historical progress created with watercolor resulting in an unedited and distorted history.

The Missing Witness, Watercolor on cotton paper, 150x128cm, 2022