An article by Patrick Montgomery
Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam, BC CANADAI am always surprised and moved by looking at the paintings of Reza Doust. They have a compelling quality which invite the viewer to engage in the imagery and carefully take the journey through these exciting and dangerous landscapes.
As a young boy living in Isfahan, Iran, on the eastern edge of the Zagros Mountains, Reza Doust was trained in the traditional methods and techniques of art practice which have prevailed there for centuries. He is a painter whose work has developed over a lifetime. Even at the time of this formal training he attests to the fact that he was aware of an inner drive to make art. The painting from the early part of his independent career exhibits the fine detail, and exquisite finish of the miniatures, which are so much a part of the Cultural History of Persia. Over the years detailed depictions of traditional figures, and calligraphy are found in aspects of his work.
What stands out for me most, is our first meeting in 1999 when a portfolio of charcoal sketches and mixed media drawings were brought to the Evergreen Cultural Centre (Coquitlam, BC) for me to review by way of an introduction to this artist's work. I recall these figurative images that were full of darkness, dynamic tension, and pathos. These drawings appeared to be set in surrounding which were foreign to my experience. On first viewing I didn't fully grasp the content. I was moved by the imagery but refrained from asking too much for fear that I might cause discomfort of the memory of what inspired this imagery. At the time I considered that the drawings bore a resemblance to the work of Goya, and the German Expressionist's who had depicted the horrors of war.
Doust has spent a good deal of his adult life living as an ex-patriot dividing his time between Canada, and Kuwait. One can rightfully surmise that some of his subject matter refers to events taking place in the Middle East over the past 35 years; broken buildings, desolate landscapes, and scenes of oil wells on fire. The artist's current practice of painting is best characterized as expressionistic with thin layers of abstraction. Look deeper to discover a heavy narrative as the underpinning for this work. There is a literal content that I believe has a basis in his personal experience. The subjects tend to be a combination of solidly constructed architectural forms, and the human form. In my opinion the most effective of these paintings on canvas are executed on a large scale - in the area of 2 x 3 meters. At this size the structures are monolithic, and the figures are often larger than life. There are unmistakable literal references that are veiled in an expressionist handling that distorts while providing emotional impact at the same time. In most of the big paintings I get the felling that whatever is going on is not pleasant. His paint tends to be a mixture of both acrylic and oil paint, to which he will add various rough media adding texture to the surface. The result of this combination of physical practice is an art that is heavy on gesture, charged with emotional impact, capable of touching a raw nerve of awareness. Design elements are there, I expect through intuition - not planned. The work gives a sense that the world is not on fire, but it is smoking. I'd also like to make sure I don't trap the work into a political statement, as I think the work is far too personal to be considered in that light. The paintings are poetic passages, not sermons.
Reza Doust has studied the art of both the Western and Persian Civilizations, and visited many of the important collections throughout Europe, Iran, Egypt, and the middle east. His studies of master-works has added to his understanding of how to make truly accomplished works of art.