Dynamic, sweeping touches in black appear on the abysmal background. They call to mind the shadows of warriors, black mountains, trees and towers. Leaves and branches emerge elatedly through abstract patterns. Nasser Assar’s minimalistic scenes appear on specific background colors: ochre, sap green, cinnabar, or as seen here, a cyan gray. Assar favored a new approach to handling oil technique. He used thin layers in rapid and spontaneous gestures, which reveals different capacities if this flexible technique, originally developed to execute detailed, careful rendering.
Nasser Assar is a prominent figure in the generation of Iranian Modern artists. His father was a professor of philosophy, and he became acquainted with Persian classical philosophy and literature, a link which lasted to the end of his life. As a youth, he befriended Sohrab Sepehri, to him he was partly indebted for his tendency towards Oriental culture. Assar’s first painting teacher was Ali Mohammad Heydarian, a pupil to Kamal-al-Molk, and a classical figure. By entering the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, however, the traditional ideas gave way to modern viewpoints. Soon he moved to Paris, the heart of artistic developments, which put him on a flourishing track.
Assar never came back to Iran, but adopted an alternative, oriental approach to painting. Julien Alvar, Parisian curator and critic, called his art “cloudlike”, and a “rebellion against form”. These phrases referred to immediate, vague nature of his work, which could be seen as a reaction to solid, concrete surrealistic forms of the day. In opposition to the aggression and extraversion of French Tachisme and Art informel, Assar presents a calm, contemplative introversion.
In late 1950s he was deeply moved by a comprehensive exhibition of Chinese painting, and subsequently non-figurative elements prevailed his art. The main themes of his art was now an effort to representing the same elusiveness, mystery, and sublime beuty of Chinese landscapes, even though using oil technique, and in a modern manner.
In ancient Japanese ink painting, which was originally developed in China, the artist pauses for a while to conceive the image, then he loads the brush and vigorously applies the rapid and sweeping brushstrokes. The spontaneous approach keeps the painting in a border of abstraction and representation. Assar’s unique adoption of this technique is considerable for the use of oil instead of water-based ink, but he also introduces color in such a dexterity that retains the ancient painting style’s rigor. The scheme is vivid and liberated, like a character challenging us to decipher his/her mood; and as we fail in this, the ambiguity becomes the focus of the strength and the magnetism of the piece.
The artistic strength and dynamism of this paintings results from a balance between immediate spontaneity and a perfect appreciation of the medium. This exiled artist displayed a model of an artistic life and career, which is still not thoroughly known in his homeland.