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Parham Ghalamdar: The aesthetics of the absurd

Merleau-Ponty famously said in his discussion of Cezanne: “It is not correct to say that we see the painting, rather we see with the painting.”

The essay itself was concerned with the manner in which Cezanne “captured an object in the act of appearing”, and details the ways in which Cezanne describes reality’s appearance.

For Merleau-Ponty, Cezanne’s works do not simply capture objects, rather they contain a philosophy that, if noticed, respected and appreciated can alter the way we understand ourselves and the world around us.

Ghalamdar’s painting strikes a similar chord, and in talking to him whilst studying his work and his writing, I feel a renewed appreciation for the philosophy of the absurd.

Painting, for Ghalamdar has taken on the quality of a “thoughtful and considerate response to existential threats”.

In our previous piece on the artist, we explored what these existential threats might be; namely the consciousness of our flawed attempts to imbue a meaningless universe with meaning.

The response that Ghalamdar evokes in his painting is akin to that of Sisyphus; a resistance to the absurd and co-operating with life.

Ghalamdar’s practise ultimately explores what this cooperation requires, “through a paradoxical trust and mistrust in relation to the aesthetics of Realism and 2-D cartoons, and the possible absurdist method of switching between these two codes.”

Mr Risk Taker (2019), Oil on canvas, 42 x 36 cm

In adopting these two separate techniques, the audience is left in a state of ambiguity as their mind tries to grapple with the object and fit it into its conventional conceptual schema.

However, the object refuses to be placed, leaving the viewer to create a wholly new response to that which is appearing before them.

The road that we are encouraged to explore is that of accepting that the work before us cannot necessarily be ‘understood’, for it defies the quick and easy definitions that we are so willing to give to the world around us.

Such a feat is instructive on the part of the artist, for it reveals to us a new way of experiencing and relating to the world.

In our day to day existence, we are required to conceptualise and trap the world into a logical ordering.

An efficient way of going about life, but in the extremes, this blinkers us to the innate subjective nature of our perception.

What is required of individuals is to remain curious. However, as Ghalamdar notes, “the very act of searching pushes the curious man into an unwanted conflict with the world”.

As we grapple with the way the world typically appears before us, and question what it is that we are actually experiencing, we hit upon the absurd: the fact that there are many meanings to imbue the world with.

The observer must constantly second guess themselves, turning back in on their initial ideas, and questioning how else they might see the world.

In a similar manner, then, Ghalamdar’s work becomes something of a challenge to the observer; asking us what it is that we are expecting, and what it is that doesn’t quite fit into our conceptual schema.

Indeed, “the volume of absurdity is so immense, it strips off elements of narration or storytelling, to encourage the painting to develop its own identity.”

This identity is one that has its foundations in a more classical understandings of art and philosophy; "where the academy had deeply rooted beliefs in the utility of philosophy and a commitment to the principles of geometry...

"When art was made collectively, not based on cynical private relationships between the painter and external agencies."

In allowing the painting to develop an identity that is built on craft and understanding, we are forced to ask the question, then, of how often we force the world into the mind's conventional narrative that over runs our lives?

Tree, road, dessert and backdrop (2019), Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm

In this sense, Ghalamdar’s paintings are not so much about something as they are things in themselves, where the audience is encouraged to relax the strict rules that govern their minds and engage with the thing in itself, on its own terms.

In such a manner, I am reminded of Brendan Behan’s words about the famous absurdist, Samuel Beckett:

“I don’t understand what Samuel Beckett’s works are about,” he said. “But I don’t understand what a swim in the ocean is about. I just love the flow of water over my body.”

It is not so much that we must force Ghalamdar’s paintings to fit into a rational and logical mindsets, rather, we can engage with them, and enjoy them on their own terms.

And there is plenty to love in the worlds created by Ghalamdar. With a fine sense of balance, the colour palettes arrest one’s eyes, allowing the viewer to rest on each work and come into a relationship with it.

Within each work, too, is made evident the possibilities of the human imagination and our capacities to explore and create something truly new and original.

The paintings drip with a surreal ambiguity, that evokes the quality of a dreamlike state within the viewer, prompting a variety of emotions.

As the viewer washes through each response and casts aside the stories of the mind, they come into a renewed relationship with the painting.

This relationship is one that defies our conventional understanding. The skill and control of the artist can certainly be respected and admired, but beyond that the paintings remind us of how little we actually know.

In doing so, these paintings teach us how to see by challenging our mind, and asking us to relax the strict rules and logic with which we can view the world.

The fist from every communist (2019), Oil on canvas, 50 x 30 cm

To find out more about Parham Ghalamdar, please visit the artist’s website.

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