Painter Ali Banisadr on Synesthesia, Meditation, and the Infinite Possibilities of a Blank Canvas

Known for his abstract compositions, the New York–based artist Ali Banisadr recently described his paintings as “quite encyclopedic” and “trying to gather different fragments of information and knowledge from different sources,” as he told Brooke Jaffe during an “ARTnews Live,” our ongoing IGTV series featuring interviews with a range of creatives. […]

Known for his abstract compositions, the New York–based artist Ali Banisadr recently described his paintings as “quite encyclopedic” and “trying to gather different fragments of information and knowledge from different sources,” as he told Brooke Jaffe during an “ARTnews Live,” our ongoing IGTV series featuring interviews with a range of creatives.

Influenced by classic literature and the work of Old Masters like Bruegel, Bosch, and Goya, Banisadr admires their ability “to show humanity from a macro level.” To create his works, he said he “fall[s] down the rabbit hole” while researching the imagery that appears throughout his oeuvre. His maximalist approach to painting starts by sitting with “the infinite possibilities” of a blank canvas until an idea or feeling strikes him. To capture a mood, Banisadr bottles his own color combinations of paint, which has become the basis of his works. The rest, he says, is a “fluid process” of improvisation and happy accidents.

[A look inside Ali Banisadr’s Brooklyn studio.]

The vibrance of his paintings Banisadr credits to his synesthesia—a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sense prompts an involuntary experience of another. Growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution and then the eight-year Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Banisadr started making drawings based on the sound of explosions.

“When I look at visual things they can turn into sounds and when I hear certain sounds, they can turn into visual things,” he said. When he reads, too, he sees “a parallel visual world” with “symbols and colors and movements.” He likens a finished painting to the harmony of a full orchestra.

Meditation is also a large part of Banisadr’s artistic practice. To “get in touch with the painting,” he describes being in a similar headspace as when he meditates, which allows him to receive “symbols and visual things that will manifest in the work.”

Banisadr’s solo exhibition “These Specks of Dust” is currently on view at Kasmin Gallery in New York through June 26. A monograph on the Iranian painter‘s art practice and influences was published earlier this year by Rizzoli.

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