Amir Fallah’s studio is the sign of an active mind and a busy hand. Barely a hint of white emerges between the works hung and stacked, sometimes two deep. Needless to say, Amir is quite prolific. This is no small task considering he spends a month per painting on preparation alone. His “intimate collaborative project with the subject” begins by visiting and photographing them in their home. Amir then creates a composition from those images in photoshop, draws it on a transparency, projects the image on the canvas, and paints meticulously from the back to the foreground. He often shapes a canvas to reference a specific object associated with its sitter. The symbolism continues to build in Amir’s densely patterned, skillfully colored portraits.

The rich imagery in Amir’s portraiture calls to mind early Renaissance and Dutch Baroque painting of the Golden Age. I am reminded of Hans Holbein the Younger’s Portrait of George Gisze, in which, the merchant stares out at the viewer surrounded by the tools of his trade. Amir is aware and mindful of the history of portraiture. His methodology seeks to create a contemporary style that acknowledges and redefines that history.

The saying goes, “You are the company you keep.” In Amir’s work that line translates to our possessions: we are defined just as much by them as we are by the color of our skin, hair, eyes. By removing the superficial elements of a person, shrouding them, he shows that the story of our existence, our hobbies and passions, is told through everyday items such as iPads, beads, and sock monkeys. Each item he paints oozes the vibrancy and essence of its’ owner. Roses adorn the textile obscuring his wife’s figure in a recent portrait - a pattern from Amir’s favorite vintage dress of hers. Nearby, a sock monkey, their 7 month old’s favorite toy, lounges in the light of a lamp. 

In his series of portraits exploring the life and lies of Henri Rousseau, a number of works feature a clunky hand holding a bouquet of flowers — implying Rousseau’s status as an untrained outsider. Amir’s craftsmanship is so fine, you don’t even register the element of collaged flowers — some borrowed from Jan Davidsz de Heem — until you are inches from the painting. In one piece, the image of a dirigible fallen in the forest references the fabricated stories of adventure Rousseau spun and claimed to depict in his paintings. The series highlights Amir’s joy in researching his subjects, his unique take on portraiture, and the strength of his narrative arch.