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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.