Davood Roostaei: A Painter of Unusual Intensity of Expression

Davood Roostaei, born in Iran on October 12, 1959, was introduced to art at an early age.

 (photo credit: DAVOOD ROOSTAEI)
(photo credit: DAVOOD ROOSTAEI)
Davood Roostaei, born in Iran on October 12, 1959, was introduced to art at an early age. His father was an avid painter (though a surgeon by trade), and Roostaei would inherit his father’s love for the arts, taking inspiration from the gardens of his family home to produce his early childhood artistic works. He completed his first oil painting at the age of six.

Roostaei’s artistic pursuits led him to the Faculty of Fine Arts in Tehran, where he studied until 1979 when his art studies were violently disrupted by the Iranian Revolution.  He then became politically active by engaging in graffiti art which the Khomeini regime deemed subversive, and for which he was jailed for two years in 1981. Upon his release, Roostaei sought asylum in Germany where he continued to develop his artistic talents.

In Germany, Roostaei explored many different artistic styles and techniques from the Old Masters - including the restoration and creation of frescoes, to Impressionism, and Surrealism. Roostaei came to realize he required another way to express all that he had seen and experienced in art and life, and from this need, Cryptorealism was created. 

In 2001, his painting titled, “Holocaust” (1992), a Cryptorealistic portrayal of the Holocaust, was acquired by the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem, Israel.

Roostaei’s Cryptorealism often employs the thoughtful layering of seemingly unrelated images, camouflaged by Pollock-esque, exuberant splashes of color. As such, the viewer becomes an active participant in the revealing of meaning, which Roostaei has embedded in his work. Roostaei strongly believes that good art should have an immediate impact on the viewer while also evoking the imagination. The subject matters in Roostaei’s oeuvre vary greatly across timelines and topics. From politics to pop culture, he brings together distinct motifs in a unified manner to provide his unique perspectives on past and present history.

Roostaei’s Popularity Among his Collectors and Followers

Known for his perpetually inspiring and abstractly beautiful paintings, Roostaei is loved by his collectors and followers from all over the world. Incorporating a humane dimension and out-of-the-box perspectives in his paintings, he derives his subject matters from his political observations and artistic creativity of expression.

Having developed the concept of Cryptorealism in 1990, Roostaei unveiled a novel form of art using multiple layers of images that give rise to numerous interpretations of a single work of artistic expression. Through Cryptorealism, he was not only able to introduce the world to a new form of artistic rendering, but was also able to express his political and social opinions.  Roostaei’s Cryptorealistic paintings have a notable intensity to them.  The artist achieves this with a personal touch, using only his hands to create them – forgoing the use of a paintbrush since 1986.

His Contributions to the Society

A strong personality who has actively participated in politics and social affairs; his voice was often unwelcome and distanced. The sharp scissors of censorship challenged him to explain the fragility of the governing elite and their privileges.

When a similar kind of situation emerged in Germany – reminiscent of Iran in the early 1980’s – Roostaei constructed his views and artistic skills where he could sense a resemblance.  During his tenure in Germany, he grew famous as an artist and gathered a considerable following. One can identify the vast role that his art played during the Cold War.  From the mid-1980s onwards, he expressed and predicted several important future occurrences through his creativity on canvas, including the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the now defunct Soviet Union.

After moving to Los Angeles in the year 2000, he has since become a widely renowned artist with millions eyeing his works as masterpieces of the world of contemporary art. He is also committed to the human cause, donating the proceeds of a number of his works to charities he deeply believes in.  He has supported causes such as the children of Chernobyl, children hurt in accidents and suffering from vascular disease, AIDS assistance programs, and the hospice movement.

Roostaei’s expression is fondly known through his extraordinary artworks.  His works are influenced by heritage and cultural art, which further enhance their appeal to the naked eye.  His diligence, dedication, and innate artistic talents have led him to his current success.  A collection of writings about his work have been brought together in a book titled “Davood Roostaei and the Manifesto of Cryptorealism”, published in 2007.  This book gives an insight into his artistic world and the mysteries therein.  The artist continues to pursue his passion amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. He remains hopeful in his intention to present a collection of his more recent works at an exhibition in early 2021 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Beijing, China.