- On Existence, Poetic Revealing, and the Work of ArtInterview with Mehdi Saadeti
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In this interview emerging Iranian artist Mehdi Saadeti discusses his career and the existentialist themes present in his work. After discovering Saadeti's work Metamorphosis in the summer of 2019, Mark Featherstone interviewed the artist in January 2020, exploring key themes relating to the experience of exile, the politics of art, and the Heideggerian philosophy of poetry and the revealing of being. Given the contemporary age characterized by mobility, homelessness, technological rationality, and increasingly desperate attempts to make sense of processes of globalization that seem to generate chaos, Saadeti's work is important because it speaks to key concerns of cultural politics in the early twentyfirst century by drawing on existential thought and the tradition of abstraction in art to try to imagine meaningful worlds.
Mehdi Saadeti was born in 1981 in the Iranian city of Tabriz. Following his bachelor's- and master's-level education in the architecture department at Azad University, Tabriz Branch from 1999 to 2005, in 2009 Saadeti moved from Iran to Turkey. Between 2009 and 2016 he completed his PhD in painting at Hacettepe University in Ankara, before taking up a lecturing position in painting at the university. He has exhibited work in his home country of Iran and in Turkey, the Czech Republic, Kosovo, Austria, Australia, Poland, [End Page 323] and the United States. His most recent exhibition, My Imaginary World, was held in 2019 at Beytepe Art Gallery, Ankara, Turkey.
Inspired by Heidegger's insight in his famous essay "The Origin of the Work of Art" ( 2002) that "great art" reveals earth through the creation of world, the discussion between Saadeti and Featherstone centers on how Saadeti's art founds his world by revealing what is impossible to ever fully reveal, the inexhaustible plenitude of being. Although there are limits to what art can reveal, limits related to the nature of being itself, Saadeti's Heideggerian take on his own work and "great art" in general speaks to the role of art in enabling us to make sense and create meaning in a state that might otherwise seem wracked by the profound anxiety brought about by the meaninglessness of existence.
In order to start the interview, could you tell me about your career and how your work has developed over the course of your life as an artist?
First of all, I should thank you for your interest in my works. I would like to begin by explaining the fact which might be most important in understanding my starting and continuing as a wayfarer in art. I grew up in a family that specialized in dealing with, designing, and producing Iranian carpets. Growing up, I spent my childhood immersed in this magnificent world, which was really characterized by criticizing and judging the relative merits of the plastic values of the visual image. The effect of this period continues to influence my sense of color harmony even now. However, I began my academic education in the Department of Architecture at Tabriz Azad University in Iran, which lasted seven years. Simultaneously, I started to paint and very quickly found myself immersed in the world of the abstract language of art. In the early years, my works were concerned with efforts to try to express myself and my inner states, but later this changed and I began to endeavor to think about the nature of existence itself. This shift ran parallel to my studies in philosophy and literature. After my immigration to Turkey in 2009, painting became my main profession. Living a life marked by exile, I find that painting supports me in the face of "unbearable everydayness." Today, I regard my problematic fatherland as an irritable loved one. Now my distance from my home allows me to love Iran as an imaginary image.
I wonder if you could tell me more about the experience of moving between Iran and Turkey and how this influenced your work. How did the experience of exile express...