Stories about love and war (and a time when relationships were less complicated by technology)

A narrative painting, simply stated, is one that tells a story. The conceptual “happenings” of the 70s and the abstract expressionist art of the 80s nearly killed the idea, but during the last decade, it’s surged back. Daniel Avazpour, a newcomer to Asheville, will be displaying his narrative paintings and drawings at the Flood Gallery in his ambitious solo exhibition Love and War.

Daniel Avazpour’s “Bad Luck you are my mirror”

Most prominent are the larger-than-life charcoal and multimedia drawings from his deeply personal series Shanti and I. Using oil bars, charcoal, graphite, paint sticks, erasers and other mark-making tools, the artist develops a visual surface of subtleties and depth. Measuring roughly 7-foot by 7-foot, each were drawn out by hand without the use of a grid or traced projections—devices many artists utilize to achieve likenesses of this scale. Clearly these are contemporary works of art but they appear to reference a different era—a time when people and relationships were less complicated by technology. 

In “Bad Luck you are my mirror,” the artist is seated at a table with a notably uncomfortable expression on his face. A shaker of salt is spilling—its movement appears in slow motion due to the halo of erased marks surrounding it. A black cat sits in the lower left corner and papers spill out onto the floor. Shifting perspectives and contrasting patterns add to the moment’s heightened discomfort.

“New Beginnings” depicts a woman in a black dress as she casts a spell on the seated Avazpour. It is unclear if she is harming or healing him. The two are in their own world, disengaged from the viewer. A thick ornamental border surrounds them (as if protecting them from the outsider’s gaze), but due to their size and the charged moment, it is hard to look away.

A series of small oil paintings on wood accompany the huge drawings, and at first glance almost seem in opposition to the drawings, given their disparate scale of size. The subjects: Overturned cars, motorcycles on fire, warplanes, oil spills and buildings aflame. In comparison to the large drawings, the subjects of these paintings are clearly of this era.

Born under a bad sign: Asheville artist Daniel Avazpour weaves themes of superstition into his paintings. Photo by Jonathan Welch.

“They are things with a purpose, meant to take you some place, but are now inoperable,” Avazpour says. Though people are noticeably absent, the human voice is described through the artist’s varied applications of paint. Red spires bleed down from a black sky onto an upturned car in “Crash.” The buildings of “Toxic Warfare” are rendered in detail and contrast with loaded smears of paint in the foreground. “The Perfect Storm” shows a car in yellow flames surrounded by a deluge of black and blue brushstrokes. The stories of these little paintings are murky, and the shadowy emotion so sincerely expressed that it offers a bridge to the large and confidential charcoal narratives.

The beauty and power of Avazpour’s work lies not only in his aesthetic rendering, but also his choice of such personal subject matter. Of the show’s title, Love and War, he says, “It happens on an individual level all the time—we can’t tell if we’re in love or at war, and at the same time it’s everything the world is going through right now.”

[Ursula Gullow is an Asheville-based artist and writer.]

who: Daniel Avazpour
what: Mixed media drawings, paintings, sculpture and video. Avazpour is a Pratt University graduate who moved to Asheville from Texas last August. This is his first solo show in town.
where: Flood Gallery, second floor Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts Street
when: Reception Friday, April 17 (7 to 10 p.m. Show up through May 29. www.floodgallery.org or 254-2166)

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