The most recent pictures by Shahin Afrassiabi (*1963 in Tehran) indicate a new interest in real as opposed to imaginary light. There is an atmosphere of stillness, quietude and concentration, a stylistic freshness to the pictures even though they recall a mental world that is quite possibly vanishing.
Still-life paintings conventionally are understood to be ripe with symbolism, as each and every element in the composition holds the potential of embodying an attribute of the life lived, and death to be reckoned with, in the household where the objects on show are from. Social status, heritage, and affluence would be rendered legible by the display. Plus, if the still life included books, musical, mathematical, nautical or other scientific instruments, it would in fact be literacy itself the painting could be found to advertise, namely that of the painter and the person who commissioned the piece. If there ever was an art-form purely designed to work as a handshake between the religiously literate, it might be the still life: The engineer of its symbolism, and the proprietor of the know-how needed for its decoding would, via the transaction of making and purchasing the painting, affirm a mutual sense of belonging to the circle, guild, or elite endowed with the power to read. A vital twist Afrassiabi gives to the art form he adopts therefore lies in taking an otherwise ostentatiously readerly genre, and draining the reading out of it. The handshake of literacy won’t happen. That deal is off. What takes its place?
Before shutting down, however, they might briefly switch to a different mode: a strange clarity at the cusp of exhaustion. You’re still fully alert, and wide open to the world, but no longer computing sensations, processing them as script. It’s a state of mind as much as it is a physical condition, and its expressions might be many. The wide-eyed empty stare of a tired traveller could be a sign of this alacrity beyond literacy… It is this state of mind that Shahin Afrassiabi’s paintings put you into.Jan Verwoert
Something profoundly eerie remains, lingering in Afrassiabi’s paintings: At first, what you see seems quite real. Nothing is overtly spectral. Still, something inconspicuously uncanny resides in how things openly reveal their bare outlines and volumes, yet casually conceal what substance they may be made of. Fundamentally they leave you in doubt as to what, beyond their disarmingly simple appearance, they may actually be, and where their gathering is taking place: household objects assembled in physical space? Compositional components (circles, lines, geometrical bodies, textures and tones) arranged on the picture plane? Or emblematic ciphers — vessels of embodied meaning — organized within a symbolic microcosm?