Mehdi Ghadyanloo and the surreal arts on Tehran’s walls
Mehdi Ghadyanloo was born in 1980 in Tehran, Iran. After growing up near the agricultural fields in the suburbs of Tehran, Ghadyanloo studied at Tehran University’s College of Fine Arts and graduated with a BA in 2005. Subsequently he earned an MA in film studies from Tehran’s Teachers College (Tarbiyat-e Modarres). Known primarily for his gigantic trempe l’oeil style murals in central Tehran, Ghadyanloo also creates small scale paintings, with surreal and minimalistic themes. Through his works, Ghadyanloo opens a window into the mood of life in Iran today. At the same time, he provides an autobiographical perspective, portraying the landscapes of his youth, his memories of Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), and his life experience in the Islamic Republic.
His paintings are not illegal. On the contrary, he was commissioned by the city government to paint them. Nine years ago – in 2006, or by the Iranian calendar, 1384 – “the municipality published a call for artists”. Fresh out of an art course at Tehran University, he applied.
Tehran is a city of blank walls, he explains. “I heard Tehran still has 5,000 blank walls to be painted. They said: ‘You can find your wall and suggest your idea.’ The Beautification Organisation liked my works …”
No wonder. Ghadyanloo’s murals in Tehran open windows in the sky. He sees them as a utopian protest against the city’s pollution and smog. “Sometimes you have only grey skies. I wanted to paint clear skies. I would like Tehran to be like my works.”
Using his mastery of trompe l’oeil, he paints huge walls with what he calls suggestive moments from unwritten short stories. His scenes are dream-like, ambiguous. Cars fly in space in a science-fiction city. Holes open to reveal blue skies. Fairies peep through the portals. People walk on roofs. “I want to give a smiling moment,” he says.
His work is greatly influenced by Surrealism and Symbolism, combined with Persian figures and Iranian architecture. Using dreamy and playful motifs, Ghadyanloo aims to create his own utopia on the walls of his city. When designing a wall, Ghadyanloo carefully studies the people, culture and background of each area. Each mural reflects its surroundings, manipulating everyday life to transform the visual landscape of contemporary Tehran. Foregoing political commentary, Ghadyanloo is more interested in communication, and the dreams and imagination that people all over the world share.
Alongside his artistic career, Ghadyanloo teaches Urban Art and Mural Painting at Soore Art University, Tehran. In 2015 he has been invited to paint walls in London, the US, Norway and India.
In February 2015 Howard Griffin Gallery London staged Ghadyanloo’s first solo exhibition at the Gallery entitled Perception.