Vincent Van Gogh told Ali Esmaeilipour to keep painting. This was in a dream, of course. The subconscious version of the Dutch master implored the young Iranian to pursue his artistic passion and find a teacher. It had to be Van Gogh. He was Ali’s inspiration. The artist had discovered his love of painting after seeing a Vincent self-portrait in a book years before. “I hungered to learn how to paint like that,” he recalls.
So Ali set himself on a path that culminated in study with Professor Aydin Aghdashlou at the Zangar Art Institute in Tehran. Here, he was introduced to many new techniques and inspirations. He discovered the American realists Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer, and learned about watercolour and acrylics. Indeed, such was his passion for the latter he would beg family and friends to bring back acrylics if they travelled overseas.
When Ali finally embarked on a career in painting, success came quickly. Many group and solo exhibitions followed. Then, in 1997, he won the prestigious 4th Biennale at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran. Shortly after, he was offered the post of artist in residence at the Opera Gallery in Singapore. He accepted and re-located. He still lives there today.
Ali’s current paintings deal in objects, which he paints with impeccable technique. As a result, the little tableaus of lace, fruit, animals, fabrics and birds can be disarmingly beautiful. But look more carefully and there is often a sense of disquiet in these works. Ali’s paintings often feature incongruous or inscrutable images. A previous collection featured a painting of a telephone without a cord, for example.
Perhaps this reflects Ali’s own sense of displacement - the Iranian living in Singapore, and exhibiting all over the world. He says: “Each of us is trying to find a balance between our roots and our aspirations. The juggling act becomes more precarious in our era of globalisation where our future often lies far from home.”
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