2015 - 'In Search of a Common Horizon', Tandis Visuall Arts Magazine(May), (Publisher: Tandis Magazine, Tehran)

In Search of a Common Horizon
By Dariush Talaie [Art Critic]

“In order to experience the horizons of my city, I looked for flat and empty places with a view of horizon, but these I found quite rare and narrow. This collection of analogue photos have been shot with old and expired films, all in 2014.”

This is a part of Mohsen Shahmardi’s statement for showing fifteen photos in Mohsen Gallery. 20 to 30, and 74 to 111cm photos printed on photo paper taken with medium format camera. Shahmardi’s landscapes are abandoned sceneries from Tehran, lands abandoned in the foreground and buildings in the background. But there is no sign of nature’s beauty. The photographer tries to tell us that these lands in the front and those buildings in the back, are all the possibility we have to reach a shared and expanded horizon in Tehran. An unstable horizon; the photographer’s insisting on taking these photos in 2014 is the result of some sort of awareness about the flitting nature of these landscapes; the fact that each of these horizons might go through a radical change even before these photos are exhibited. On the other hand, the reference to the time of creating the photos and jolting down the locations is telling us about the photographer’s documentary approach. Shahmardi’s documentations, in contrast to the tradition, are unclear. Despite what we see in famous photos in the history of photography, here we can see no sign of clarity. In fact, what does not seem pleasant at the first encounter with the photos is that they don’t have complete clarity. This lack of clarity in the photos, either be the result of lack of technique or the artist’s smart choice of a lens with a little clarity, in the end helps the presentation of the works. Unclarity of the photos, brings about the opportunity that helps the photos to reflect a shape of the space instead of representing a specific location, spaces which share a common feature, an expanded horizon. These photos are the result of the photographer’s attempt to shoot special landscapes of Tehran with a look at the tradition of photographers of “The New Topographics”.

In the process of creating these spaces and shooting these landscapes, the results are much more successful when the photographer doesn’t use the city’s well-known sites like Milad tower or Mosala, because these elements would definitely dominate the whole picture. I fact, the presences of prominent city elements in the frame would definitely have a great impact on the intention of the photo and result in a new point of reference which might not have been what the artist wanted. The atmosphere of Mohsen Shahmardi’s photos are the atmosphere of unclear pictures from soulless land scapes. Each of these photos with reproducing a specific view from the point of the view of a camera which is leveled with the horizon, accompanied by the color (let’s say colorlessness) of expired negatives, anti-reflection glasses and the coldness of the new site of Mohsen Gallery, are represented in a union which cause the audience to experience the same “horizon of view” that the photographer intended. Something which the artist might had in mind and maybe he had some financial issues in mind when he printed half of the photos in smaller frames.
In the end, the recent works of Mohsen Shahmardi in the show “Contemporary Landscapes of Tehran” can be considered as a good attempt if we accept that the Contemporary in this series, is more about Tehran’s calendar and the time of recoding the landscapes more that the form of presentation and the artistic expression of the photographer.

Dariush Talaei

translated: Taba Fajrak

2015 - Tandis Visuall Arts Magazine(May), (Publisher: Tandis Magazine)