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.
The first part of the picture shows the world in its primal state, in statu nascendi. With the bullfight, the artist has taken up a theme used by mankind in its art since ancient times. The bull has the same status as the matador, and looks him in the eyes. It realises its own God-given strength which it can use for good or evil.
Lightning flashes through the picture, bringing to mind the big bang of divine creation. The lightning forms an “A“ standing for ‘Anfang’ (the beginning) of life.
The man struggles with his fate as with the bull and reaches in a Zaroastrian gesture towards the sun.
On the upper edge of the picture, a coffin can be seen borne by the four seasons. Scarcely brought into this world, a person reaches adulthood, comes to his prime and is aged. He departs this world imperfect and incomplete.
If the picture is turned 90 degrees then one believes one sees a symbolic presentation of the whole of the world’s history. From behind Nolte’s head projects the sword of a warrior. Jesus hangs unconscious on the cross. An eagle sets off towards the sun to fly into space.
The associations are dim, chaos dominates, darkness replaces the light. Among the many symbols are the black-red-gold colors of the German flag. But the colors do not stand alone, they have a double and triple meaning and at the same time form the components for other images.
If “Nirvana“ is turned upside down then the viewer is at first perplexed. Here the mystery of life is unveiled and is completely unsolvable. The lightning has become a divining rod. In the right side the ark of Noah, the first prophet, floats past. A court jester grins ambiguously. A dove of peace drinks from a puddle of blood. the panorama is full of signs, secrets and mysteries which remain unsolved.
If the picture is finally turned 270 degrees, the viewer stands before a vision of the judgement of the world. The coffin is empty, the person has arisen from the grave. An angel, brighter and lighter than the Barlach angel, soars upward. The cross is upside down, death is conqured. A great fish represents evolution, development from the first form of life up to mankind. From the sum-total of all life lived evolves a new creation, a new life, a new man as a perfect radiant form. The last days will be a new beginning. Sperm-like flecks show that out of the debris of the old world comes the seed for a new beginning. The cycle of God’s creation has been completed to be continued on a new, higher level nearer to God.