Microscopic Theaters of Dichotomy: The Collage Art of Ashkan Honarvar

The title of this article, Microcosmic Theaters of Dichotomy, comes from the Statement page of Norwegian collage artist Ashkan Honarvar‘s website:

Ashkan Honarvar´s collages present the human body at the center of microcosmic theaters of dichotomy in which irrationality permeates logic, serenity belies violence, and luxury secretes exploitation. Tragically vulnerable to injury yet resilient in its ability to heal, the body itself is a living paradox: its vitality can be beautiful; its deformation, grotesque.

That’s as good a description as any for the often contradictory nature of Honarvar’s work, wherein one can find paradoxical juxtapositions as a matter of course: babies and flowers next to images of war casualties, deformed and diseased flesh elevated to both holy relics and confectionery delights, cheap pornography in the most luxurious surroundings. Perhaps this paradox arises in part from Honarvar’s own history and sense of identity. Born in Shiraz, Iran in 1980, as a child his family moved to Utrecht, Netherlands, and then later to Norway—what an incredible culture shock that must have been for young Honarvar, going from one of the most conservative parts of the world to one of its most liberal.

Of course, children show up frequently in his art, often nude. The symbolism cannot be overlooked here: purity and innocence violated by the artist’s despoiling black ink and unfeeling, implacable blade. This symbolism is used to great effect in the series Children, which his site describes thusly:

This project was created after studying child sexual abuse. By inscribing lines on and adding negative spaces to the actual photographs, Ashkan Honarvar has attempted to record not only the physical, but also the mental scars that stay with a victim for the rest of their lives. Each collage was based on a different case of sexual abuse.

 

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (3)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (4)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (5)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (6)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (7)

In the series Identity Lost, Honarvar uses medical images of both humans and animals to comment on the modern world, where individual identity is frequently subsumed by social utility.

Ashkan Honarvar – Identity Lost 6 (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Identity Lost 6 (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Identity Lost 6 (3)

The Reality series demonstrates the malleability of our perceptions with respect to movies, and ultimately our environment as a whole. We tend to see what we want to see, sometimes missing vital facts and ignoring things we’d rather not think about, such is how consumption of media may be impacting children negatively.

Ashkan Honarvar – Reality (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Reality (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Reality (3)

In The Crust, one of Honarvar’s longest and most complex series—which is broken up into both subseries and phases—he looks at humanity on a much larger scale, examining our place in the universe, what makes us human, and the origins of evil. He says of it:

My work deals with the human condition and the search for the roots of evil latent in every human being. I have been working on this subject for couple of years now. Projects like Faces, Ubakagi and Children focused on specific sub-sections of this subject such as war and identity, rapists from the Congo and child abusers. One of my main goals with The Crust was to view the topic of evil on a grander scale. To dig deeper into the origins of the projects mentioned above. However different these projects may look on the surface, their core is the same. They all revolve around us, humans. To understand evil we must understand ourselves.

Of particular interest to our readers is The Crust 1, Phase 1, the very beginning of the series. It asks, how is the innocence of children first corrupted? Where are the origins of evil in us as a species?

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (3)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (4)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (5)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (6)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (7)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (8)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (9)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (10)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (11)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (12)

These final few images I have no commentary on, save to say that they repeat some of the same themes present throughout Honarvar’s work.

Ashkan Honarvar – King of Worms – Parasite

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (3)

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (4)

One final point I’d like to make: despite the nudity, sexual content and violence therein, the message behind Ashkan Honarvar’s art is surprisingly conservative. After all, he didn’t create the original content that he uses to make his collages; he only repurposes it to demonstrate his ideas. As is often the case with nude child art, a mere surface reading of it completely misses the point.

6 thoughts on “Microscopic Theaters of Dichotomy: The Collage Art of Ashkan Honarvar

  1. And yet, I keep thinking that some of these pictures would have been much more beautiful WITHOUT all the “defacement” that he added to them.
    I know that THAT is not realistic here, but that is still the feeling that I am left with when I look at this post.

    • I understand that, but in this case beauty was not really the point. There is a misconception out there that art is always supposed to be pretty. It isn’t. Art has a multitude of functions–creating beauty is one of them, but it isn’t the only one.

    • You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but you’re going to have to qualify that if you’re to have any hope of convincing me. And you’d better make it good, because to me your claim is absurd.

        • Okay, but how is it exploitative? It might be emotionally manipulative but to be sure, all art is emotionally manipulative. Just because the emotions the artist was likely going for here was disgusting or disturbing the viewer, that doesn’t make it exploitative. What makes art exploitative is if the artist manipulates a model in negative ways to achieve their effect. I realize this is a fine line sometimes and we can argue semantics here with regard to what is and is not negative manipulation, but given that the artist didn’t even take the original images and the children likely aren’t even aware of their images being used, I think you’d be hard pressed to make that argument.

          Moreover, I don’t think anyone is so sacrosanct that they cannot be depicted in negative ways in art, girls included. If I believed otherwise I would never have started this blog, since part of its mission was to cover the entire gamut of girls in art. It might be troubling to some of our viewers to associate the nude child form with injured or diseased body parts, but that’s part of the point of the artwork in this case.

          So the bottom line is that you find the work distasteful. That’s fine, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t even particularly agree with this artist’s message myself, and I agree with you that some of it is rather repulsive—as I stated at the end of the article, in context his work takes on conservative political connotations, I think—but you shouldn’t level accusations of exploitation (which are very serious accusations to make towards an artist) just because you don’t like the work or find it troubling. Have you learned nothing from this blog? That’s been the overall message of Pigtails since the beginning.

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