Guest blog post by Paloma Mayorga

It wouldn’t be a 5×5 exhibition without some mezzotints in the mix, and the work of Mehdi Darvishi reminds us what it is exactly about this labor-intensive technique that’s so irresistible. 

Born in Dorud, Iran at the cusp of the Iran – Iraq peace resolution in 1988, Mehdi Darvishi grew up in a war-stricken hometown and now uses his work to address themes of war, death, and a personal and collective sense of loss and mourning. His gracefully rendered works in PrintAustin’s 5×5 exhibition, depict cadavers under white sheets, vanishing bodies in barren or grave-filled landscapes, and intricate cloudscapes that highlight Darvishi’s eloquent understanding of the power of light.

Mehdi Darvishi, Evaporated, 2020, mezzotint and aquatint, 23.5″ x 141.5″

Having exhibited work in over 30 countries in his career thus far, Darvishi began working in mezzotint only six years ago when he came across a YouTube tutorial by Guy Langevin and was captured by the technique. Previously, he had only experimented with etchings inspired by the works of artists like Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, often printing white ink on dark paper. Mezzotint, however, proved to be the more poetic form of printing for Darvishi’s dark subject matter. 

Mehdi Darvishi, Outside of the Time, 2015, mezzotint and etching, 31.5″ x 23.5″

In his recent interview with Miranda Metcalf of Hello, Print Friend, Darvishi speaks of his relationship to death and how he sees it as a shared experience that connects all of humanity.

“When you know that this is the most definite thing which is happening in every human being’s life, for me it wasn’t disappointing, it wasn’t something which makes me sad, because it’s for everybody…” Darvishi expresses. “When you consider death as a goal, as something like a destination, you will try to make the way to that destination as perfect as possible.” 

Mehdi Darvishi, The Extended Night, 2020, reduction mezzotint, 59″ x 33.5″

Darvishi metaphorically and physically brings out the light from the dark. He reworks the metal plate multiple times, destroying each image with the creation of a new one, to achieve a series of haunting reduction mezzotints that communicate a powerful narrative of time, process, and acceptance. “As the main theme of this series of works is life and its undeniable result: Death, this reductive process is a good reflection of the way that I look at life and what is most essential.”

To learn more about Mehdi Darvishi and his exquisite work, visit mehdidarvishistudio.com.

Mehdi Darvishi, The Night, 2017, mezzotint, 23.5″ x 31.5″

About the Exhibition

PrintAustin’s 5X5 is one of the organization’s annual juried shows presented during the month-long PrintAustin festival. 

Started in 2021 as an online exhibit, five artists are selected based on a cohesive body of work made up of five print-based works. In 2023, PrintAustin added a new dynamic to the open call and had two jurors pulling from identical submissions, creating two separate exhibitions–one hosted by Link&Pin during PrintAustin, and the other to be presented at form & concept during the inaugural sister festival, Print Santa Fe  in April 2023.

This year’s 5×5 exhibition in Austin was juried by Holly Borham, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Art at the Blanton Museum of Art, and curated by Annalise Gratovich, Texas printmaker and PrintAustin Board of Director Member.

PrintAustin partners with Miranda Metcalf and Reinaldo Zambrano of Hello, Print Friend and Jamal Barber of Studio Noize Podcast to conduct interviews with each of the selected artists to dive deeper into their artistic practice and inspiration behind their works.

If you enjoy the PrintAustin blog or any of the podcast interviews, please consider making a donation to PrintAustin and help continue our artist-led efforts to share our love of printmaking!

You can view the 2023 5×5 Catalog here or purchase a copy by emailing info@printaustin.org.

Featured Image: Installation view of Mehdi Darvishi’s work at Link&Pin for PrintAustin’s 2023 5×5 exhibition. Photo by Scott David Gordon.