Cryptorealism: Revolutionizing Perspectives In Art

Davood Roostaei, Minotaur, 1993. © Davood Roostaei.

Cryptorealism, created by the Iranian — American artist Davood Roostaei, is an art form that directs the eye beyond the apparent picture to penetrate its depths.

The scenes portrayed in Roostaei’s pictures are often covered by a veil which the observer must drawback. Observation of his paintings through the physical eye alone is doomed to failure — the inner eye must also engage to fully appreciate his work. Roostaei does not aim simply to afford the observers of his paintings a few minutes of pleasure. Each piece is thoughtfully created to inspire deeper contemplation, leaving a strong and lasting impact on the viewer.

Davood Roostaei, In Memory of Edith Piaf, 1994. © Davood Roostaei.

Roostaei’s works are often an explosion of vibrant colour, though that’s not all that there is: Look a little more closely and one finds symbols and figures in among the kaleidoscope. Roostaei is asking us not to look at life superficially, but to take the time to observe reality more closely in order to find the hidden layers and aspects which may not be visible at first sight. One can then ascertain that in his pictures very divergent intentions merge into each other. It is seldom that anything in these pictures appears static; each detail seems to move in its own rhythm, which can be opposed to that of all the others.

Cryptorealism is a new technique and a way of thinking which offers a novel perspective of both art and reality. It conveys at first glance the impression of being an abstract-tachist painting, however at its core has a clear meaning and message. It is an art form of enigmatic expression having realistic motifs taken from a wide range of themes from antiquity to the present and future. This concept merges the major currents of contemporary art, realism, and abstraction, from both traditional and present-day aspects, into an original state of unity with individual identification.

Davood Roostaei, Don’t cry Joy; I’m the Winner, 1995. © Davood Roostaei.

The renowned American art historian and critic, Albert Boime, described Cryptorealism as a kind of magical eclecticism that is also a game of hide-and-seek that Roostaei plays with the viewer in his Cryptorealistic paintings. He paints compositions from eccentric angles and viewpoints and often depicts forms that metamorphose in a twinkling of an eye. Roostaei’s work consistently discloses disguised and reversible imagery that sends the viewer on an optical steeplechase. His energetic spatial fields fairly explode with dense imagery and spattered paint, combining a kind of Jackson Pollock approach with the old masters and popular imagery. Roostaei constructs multiple perspectives through the overlaying of levels of images in his paintings, which he then covers by a veil of exuberant splashes of color giving his work an energetic and primal effect, made evermore so by the fact that he does so all without a brush — using only his fingers to create each masterpiece.

Roostaei values uncertainty and often critiques all forms of certainty and authority. To him, ambiguity and contradiction are essential to his craft. He prefers to construct meaning beyond the obvious, often bringing together and layering contradicting perspectives as he believes there are always uncertainties and hidden elements and layers in every situation. Roostaei emphasizes that his paintings do not only involve what is visually perceptible, but attempt to also capture the soul and true essence of whatever his subject matter might be.

Davood Roostaei, Reincarnation II, 1994. Courtesy of Pashmin Art Gallery. © Davood Roostaei.

Roostaei revolutionizes perspectives in his Cryptorealistic pictures. He brings what is far off, ecstatic and enigmatic to the foreground and pushes the obvious to the background. His pictures can be turned in all directions, and every angle offers new insights. According to the distance, illumination or the viewing angle, a different interpretation can be put on them.

Cryptorealism goes beyond all variations of traditional Realism and of Post-Modernism. In the depiction of the reality visible to the naked eye, the artist mirrors the higher realities which are not perceived by the eye. Roostaei makes the invisible visible in his Cryptorealistic paintings. He combines physical and metaphysical dimensions and overlays different layers of significance one upon another in order to foster boundless and multi-dimensional perspectives on a variety of issues.

Davood Roostaei, Day of Freedom, 1988. © Davood Roostaei.
Davood Roostaei, Day of Freedom (study), 1988. © Davood Roostaei.

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