This painting’s title, Razm, is the Farsi word for fighting: considered in epic poetry, along with love, to be one of the two great heroic activities. Haerizadeh often takes inspiration from Persia’s rich literature – such as Ferdowski’s The Book of Kings or Rumi’s poetry and prose works – using its grand themes as allegories for contemporary Iranian social issues. In Iranian custom, rather than having a war, one soldier from each side was selected to partake in a duel to the death as a means to settle disagreements. Haerizadeh paints this scene with all the energy of a heated battle. On the left of the canvas, the protagonist strides his horse with masculine nonchalance, holding a diamond ring, his damsel’s prize. Smiting his enemy with a single blow, the right side of the canvas descends into violent abstraction, the fallen rider rendered in a cacophony of blurs and patterning, delineated by faint skeletal gestures and heavy cartoon outlines.

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