Mohsen Irani: Figurative Expression of Human Vanity

Greek figurative sculptors idealized the male human body and the resulting work was unrealistically perfect. The description and adoration of human body in general has been the subject of almost all known forms of art from ancient times to contemporary times. The ripping muscles and the strength of the human body have inspired generations of artists and shall continue to do so until mankind ceases to exist.

Sinewy muscles and curvaceous female figures have enchanted artists and has been the ambrosia for modern media’s depiction of human body. Human body has been held sacred by most cultures for it denotes an identity, a unique identity that sets mankind apart from animals. It represents a border which separates the furry and feathered species from the benevolent and smooth bodied human beings.

The human body is not only held sacred but muscles and flesh have been the content of human eroticism and aesthetic imagery that have been longed for. However, what lies within this showcase of muscles and strength are dying cells, blood and human waste. Flesh, bones and blood have always been something that man has never found appealing, for that reminds him of his similarity with animals.

Mohsen Irani is a Persian painter who has been deeply influenced by figurative art movements. In fact, he is one of the better known Persian figurative painters today and he teaches and lives in Tehran, Iran. He studied painting and drawing at the Icarus Art Studio and got his B.A. from the University of Architecture and Art, Tehran. He continued to pursue his M.A. in painting at the Soureh University of Fine Arts.

He was recognized for his talent and awarded with Certificate of Merit in Karaj Contemporary Drawing Competition and Niavaran Cultural complex in 2005 and 2006. He has taken part in several group and solo exhibitions. His paintings explore the weakness and vulnerability which hide behind muscles and strength. He exposes the terrible experience of existence which lurks under human physical beauty.

His paintings tell the tales of human beings that strive to convince themselves and others of their physical beauty and strength. Man needs the shield of strength and  beauty in order to protect himself from the external aggressors. However, behind this facade of strength lies a vulnerable and weak soul that seeks out for help and mercy. The screams only get louder as the person continues to look physically stronger.

Physical strength and beauty are but illusions that protect the self and others from the existential risk of revealing ones weakness and vulnerability and the similarity of the human body’s innards with the innards of an animal in the forest. In fact it is this very fear of realization of being an animal that drives human beings towards art and aesthetics, for animals are assumed to not have the capacity appreciate art.

When the shield of strength and beauty breaks down, man is exposed to the state of being an animal; an animal that hunts and is hunted. Once hunted, the innards are revealed and the exterior muscles are of no use, but provide nourishment to the hunter. Mohsen reduces muscles into some thing undesirable from being something so desirable. He represents muscles as being just that, shapeless lumps of flesh and muscles that are neither visually appealing nor stand as testimony to the assumed strength of human body.

Mohsen’s muscles border between being grotesque and being beautiful. The idea of human beauty is juxtaposed with the vulnerability, weakness and painfulness of being a human. Man’s world comes crashing down when this façade is brought down, and that is exactly what Mohsen Irani tries to convey. He uses objects from reality, human body and muscles to figuratively recreate a sense of revulsion towards one’s own vanity and self love.

The bundle of masses in one of his paintings bends down submissively and the hairless and smooth body is no different from that of a new born deer in the wild surrounded by a million predators. The once cherished and admired muscles are reduced to symbol of weakness and vulnerability that tugs at the human ego. His figurative sketches include men in various vulnerable situations like sleeping, pondering over something unaware to the attacker nearby and dreaming wistfully while not realizing being watched over.

The owners of the strong sinews are left exposed to existential dangers which are almost mortal. Mohsen’s paintings do not seek out the abstract, but represent the human figure as it is. He paints human beings and their weaknesses and falsehoods. He paints and exposes their vulnerability and their vanity. While doing so, he reduces muscles and human physical prowess to mangled pieces of flesh, bones, blood, innards and organs. Yet, he depicts humans as being beautiful and tragic at the same time.  Mohsen Irani stands as an example to the growing culture of figurativism in Europe and Persia while expressionist ideas continue to mould painters like him.

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