Beautifully Ugly; Hedyeh Khan’ali’s Paintings
At first sight, the content of Hadyeh Khan’ali’s paintings is reminiscent of the age-old controversy about the relation between art and beauty. According to Umberto Eco in his History of Beauty, in various theories of beauty from the ancient times to the middle ages, ugliness had been held as the opposite of beauty, i.e. as conflicting with the rules of proportion on which both the physical and the moral beauty stand, or as a defect in what a thing naturally and/or originally has. At any rate, there is a principle almost universally agreed: even though there are ugly creatures and things, art has the power to beautifully capture them and the beauty of the imitation makes the ugliness acceptable.
From Aristotle to Kant, there is no evidence against this. If we do not draw too far from these thoughts, we shall come to a simple conclusion: although there is a certain kind of ugliness in nature that disgusts us, art, by presenting them beautifully, makes them acceptable or even pleasant. But such an opinion has undoubtedly altered since the modern era and much attention has been paid to the relativistic nature of the concept of art. Now we can talk about the ever-changing criteria which chrysalises every historical era, in a context of social, political and cultural relations.
With such an idea, we can evaluate Hedyeh Khan’ali’s peculiarities in following a modernistic tradition in which the painter not only distances from the old paradigms of portraying, but also tries to refashion them and turn the familiar patterns upside down.
Painting the statues in austere settings, going beyond the mere depiction of the face and framing the whole body—nudographically at times—omitting or simplifying the furniture around the model or whatever hints at his/her social status, attempting to embody the subject’s personality beyond the artwork etc. are characteristics which can be found in the works of some influential contemporary portrait artists such as Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville, Stanley Spencer and Alice Neal.
In making and finishing of colors in her works, Hedyeh’s style also echoes that of neo-impressionists, especially Gauguin, which is called a “reviving of modernism” or “Re-modernism” in contemporary art. So her works is a creative oscillation between the old and the new that mark a new beginning for an artist, whose future works we enthusiastically anticipate.