Madani works on a small scale and a large scale. This work is from a series of small paintings called Dazzle Men that take as their starting point the Dazzle patterns used by artists to camouflage ships during the First World War. Dazzle camouflage was designed to confuse the aim of U boat commanders. Its unstable, brightly coloured distortions were closely allied to modernist painting and indeed formed the subject of a memorable series of woodcuts and a major painting by the British Vorticisit Edward Wadsworth.
Presumably this painting, as others by Madani, takes its source from either one of the highly controversial photographs taken by American soldiers of their tortured prisoners in Abu Ghraib in 2006 or some such imagery of human degradation (from whatever quarter) during the War of Terror widely diffused in the media.
Madani’s paintings have a caricatural quality that suggest a satirical intention. She only paints images of men. This came about initially because she ‘didn’t want to deal with the question of the veil, and I didn’t particularly want to sexualise the figures with perked up breasts, so ultimately I was left with men.’ Since making that statement she has expressed an interest in depicting spaces ‘designated for men only’. Madani’s work can be interpreted as a comment on an overbearingly patriarchal society, whether in Iran or indeed any Western country. Her cartoony paintings expose ethnic and gender stereotypes with a lightness of touch that belies their punch. The painterly nature of Madani’s approach has led her to make films composed of freeze frame shots of paintings that she changes from shot to shot.
Born in 1981, Tala Madani is a young Iranian artist who has lived outside Iran since the age of 14. She currently lives and works in New York and Amsterdam.