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WHAT IS CRYPTOREALISM?
Don’t cry Joy; I’m the Winner, 1995, oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 in.
The best answer is a complex one.
It is a movement that was created slowly and meticulously from Davood Roostaei’s early thoughts and artistic experiences — over a decade from his first endeavours, as an 18 year old art student in Iran — to then an excited fledging and emerging artist, when an immigrant in Germany in the late 1980s.
Roostaei as an artist first took on Realism, but soon he recognized its limitations for him, moving to Abstract Realism, Surrealism, and Impressionism.
As a political activist he even took on the politicized art form of graffiti, something which got him arrested and jailed for two years. Upon his release in 1984 he realized that his artistic life needed somewhere else to grow and blossom. He gained asylum in Germany, the perfect place in the 80s and 90s to pursue an artistic career.
In Germany his work caught the eye of art historian and critic, Hanns Theodor Flemming. Together with Flemming he found not only his artistic feet but a way to articulate his way of working. He pulled his early thoughts and artistic practices together, which included Realism, Abstract Realism, Impressionism, and Surrealism, while delving into an early phase of erotica and sexual exploration.
So if one is wanting the Cole notes on Cryptorealism it is a flow from abstract Surrealism, if one wants, to a more full-blown rendition of the inescapability of making art, which tries to represent the world in which we live.
With those theoretical developments came methodological experimentation. Jackson Pollock’s abandonment with paint inspired Roostaei to do likewise but his route was somewhat different. Yes, he followed Pollock in splashing paint on canvas but he structured it with his fingers, alternating between splashing paint, depicting images with his fingers, and then again splashing paint over his work. These were the seeds of Cryptorealism — Abstract Expressionism, learned from Pollock; Impressionism, learned from the French masters; Surrealism’s lesson of the absurd juxtapositioning of images; then the sweetness of Magical Realism, which takes us to fantastical places.
Roostaei knew that there would be a new magic beyond Magical Realism, beyond Abstract Expressionism, beyond Impressionism, beyond Surrealism, and this he found in the creation of Cryptorealism. This unique and revolutionary painting style was originally created in 1987, and it was initially referred to as abstract Surrealism, it was then aptly bestowed the name, Cryptorealism, in 1990.
Roostaei has taken Cryptorealism to new levels. He has become committed to painting with his fingers, as he has to putting one layer upon another, a technique which by definition reveals one image upon another.
Yes, one sees the vibrant splash of colour but with just a pause, one realizes there is an image behind it, or is that two, or is that perhaps three, underneath that blaze of colour.
Cryptorealism is what has defined Roostaei’s work since 1990. It is now over three decades from the time that he drew it together in the late 1980s in Germany.
May the magic continue.
Nirvana, 1994, oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 in.
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