Mohsen Jamal (b. 1941) began painting pastorals after he emigrated with his family from Tehran to Germany, fleeing Iran’s turbulent revolution. His son, Mirak Jamal (b. 1979), has been carving out a path as an artist for himself in Berlin. In this show, their respective oeuvres are juxtaposed, providing alternate ways of understanding diaspora through creative expression.
A postcardlike scene hung against a painted lavender backdrop is the fulcrum of the exhibition. Completed by the elder artist in 1986, it is titled Römerberg, after the village where the Jamals first settled. The charged sociopolitical circumstances surrounding the family’s exodus are entirely absent in this sun-dappled canvas, which, in its respect to detail and eagerness to connect or at least capture a new context, typifies the artist’s output. By contrast, Mirak’s own practice, shaped by living and working in an art capital, offers a more splintered, surrealist view, the imagery tinged by an ambient malaise.
The two bodies of work, created over three decades apart, indicate at once a shared artistic vocation and a clear rift: The parent’s admiring gaze on the seemingly placid countryside morphs into the son’s look askance at his metropolitan surroundings. Depicting tranquil houses and lush greenery with soft brushstrokes and pastels, the senior Jamal considers life in the West in earnest. Mirak’s 2019 works loosely respond with flatter, brighter planes of color, abstract and linear—a less worshipful gaze. His Great pillars of a civilization and what grows between spans a single tree against an angular monument, existential and spare, while Looking up at Gropiusstadt—a print transfer nestled within an oil painting—provides an even starker shift from the paternal panoramas. Instead, a looming social housing behemoth presides over a reclining figure. Greenery sprouts from below this brut urban topography, but it seems more parasite than promise.