Nazgol Ansarinia’s latest solo exhibition at Dubai’s Green Art Gallery, ‘Lakes Drying, Tides Rising’, marks the first time colour – specifically blue – has featured so prominently in the Iranian artist’s work. In the two-channel video Dissolving Substances (2020), for instance, Ansarinia retouches an empty swimming pool in Zafaraniyeh – a neighbourhood in northern Tehran – with a vivid oceanic azure, while the small architectural sculptures of Connected Pools (2020) are made with cerulean plaster. Elsewhere, the drawings in the series ‘Lakes Drying Tides Rising’ (2022) swirl between inky petrol blues and sun-drenched aquamarine, while the sculptures in the same series are faded, based on satellite imagery.
Perspective is important in Ansarinia’s work. In Dissolving Substances, she juxtaposes the viewpoint of being at the bottom of the Zafaraniyeh pool, submerged by blue walls and slopes, with a more diffuse, rippling frame of overlaid images of spiderweb cracks and damage. The rest of her work in the exhibition, however, begins with a top-down view of the metropolis, inspired by the artist’s own experiences of flying over Tehran, a city full of desolate pools.
If David Hockney’s vision of Los Angeles from an airplane in 1964 famously marked his formalistic fascination with painting pools as sites of fluidity, desire and a neoliberal optimism, Ansarinia’s swimming basins – emblematic of Tehran’s prosperous, pre-revolutionary 1960s – speak to a former utopia and, perhaps, a collective fantasy that remains unfulfilled. This is best articulated in the stunning simplicity of Connected Pools, which on closer look comprises complex amalgamations of receding stairs, tiled floors, and several fountains and pools as sunken tops. Their visually pleasing curvilinear outlines are drawn from a municipality map of Jordan, an upscale three-square-kilometre area of Tehran that boasts 1,100 pools marked as ‘private waters’. The sculptures intimate architectural models for structures-to-be in a compelling manner, while masking the urban decay that has long preoccupied Ansarinia in her practice.