In these portraits, Bagheri alludes to historical notions of pre-modern desire and the alternative gender norms to the current Western models. Greatly invested in Persian literature and poetry, Bagheri’s large-scale drawings have a historical element reminiscent of Persian miniature paintings in their details and intricacies. Using these poetic and literary tropes in conjunction with elements of Persian visual culture, Bagheri’s work complicates notions of Persian culture, contemporary Iranian identity, and the conflicting themes of gender and sexuality that might arise at their intersection. Bagheri, in his “Eastern Desires” series (2014-2017), uses delicate drawing techniques coupled with immense detail to depict scenes of Iranian men that fluctuate between being contemporary subjects, and archival source material referencing Iran prior to the industrial revolution and modern period. These intimate scenes, at times evocative of hammam or bathhouse settings, are coupled with visual motifs reminiscent of Quajar dynasty Persian paintings that point to a masculinity of the subject that is unlike traditional depictions of Iranian men. Later works like “Someone Who is Like No-One” series (2017-2018) take similar archival references and delicate drawing techniques, coupled with jarring visual tropes that look out of place. This theme of not-belonging is extended in the artist’s use of traditional notions of hiding, and various critiques of the binaries between private/public culture and visibility/invisibility. Using these different strategies, Bagheri unsettles traditional depictions of Iranian men and examines the shift in gender norms from pre-modern Iran, and puts these shifts in dialogue with contemporary identities.
Ebrin Bagheri, born in 1983, is an Iranian/Canadian visual artist currently living and working in Toronto, Canada. Bagheri has completed a Masters of Fine Arts degree at York University, and holds visual arts degrees from other Canadian institutions, including a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD University and an arts diploma from George Brown College. Bagheri has been a part of multiple-group shows in Iran and Canada, as well as a solo exhibition in Tehran. Working primarily in drawing and painting, Bagheri has been exploring issues pertinent to Iranian culture and identity. Particularly, Bagheri uses portraiture to explore themes of masculinity and gender.