Looking at Iranian artist Salman Khoshroo’s paintings, you are immediately drawn in both by their exuberant technique and their sheer size—a typical canvas measures 1.6m by 1.6m. Working in his studio in Tehran with a large palette knife to spread oil colours directly on the canvas, Khoshroo’s paintings harness figurative abstraction to evince very concise figures of emotional tension.
While Khoshroo has a degree in Digital Arts, he is a self-taught painter—having started his artistic career as a photographer capturing images of the streets of Tehran, his painting endeavors began in 2009 when he was forced to spend more time in his studio following the government crackdown over the Green Movement street protests. Beginning with portraits of people he knew, his style evolved from one based on realism to one that draws from abstract art, expressionism and fauvism. His interest in painting the human face is twofold, both as a conduit of human emotions, made all the more pertinent in his home country where women have to cover up the rest of their bodies; as well as an expression of identity and self-presentation in the age of Facebook.
Around 2015, Khoshroo left aside his paintbrushes to experiment with a more direct approach to painting by applying the colors directly using palette knife to spread or smear them across the canvas. The result is a series of large-scale paintings highly abstract in figurative terms but quite precise in intent, combining the intensity of texture found in both Lucian Freud’s portraits and Claude Monet’s impressionistic mastery of colors. The meticulous strokes of paint capture the artist’s every gesture rendering each canvas both a finished work of art and a diagram of its own making, inviting viewers to deconstruct and reconstruct it at will.
Whereas his brooding portraits conjure emotional states and subconscious undertones, Khoshroo’s paintings of flexing figures on the other hand, evoke pure tension, their sculpted bodies revealing their fictive anatomy through bold strokes of saturated colors. For his latest paintings, he has omitted the head altogether, actively depicting the torsos with wide brush strokes of more fleshy tones that drip on the canvas.
Given Khoshroo’s propensity for experimentation and the sculptural quality of his paintings, it’s no surprise that he has also been experimenting with re-creating his unique style of portraiture in three-dimensions. The result is a gesturing bust made out of a web of colored wires attached to a moving mechanism, a work of abstraction that, like his paintings, conjures a very concise figure that impels viewers to bestow upon it an emotional sensibility of their own.