Claustrophobia: Mohammad Khalili’s first solo exhibition at SARAI Gallery.

Claustrophobia: Mohammad Khalili’s first solo exhibition at SARAI Gallery.


SARAI Gallery is a contemporary gallery specializing in Middle Eastern art. Founded by Hassan Saradipour in 2018. It serves as a platform to showcase emerging and young regional talents including Iranian and Pakistani artists internationally by organising exhibitions and joint events, and publishing works by artists. SARAI Gallery presents Claustrophobia, Mohammad Khalili’s latest series of paintings and monoprint drawings marking his first solo exhibition at the gallery.

Here are a few highlights:

Mohammad Khalili, Untitled, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 200 x 230 cm, 78 3_4 x 90 1_2 in

Mohammad Khalili has been known for his deeply meditative and quiet landscapes depicting decaying man-made structures in dreamlike and timeless places. Human presence, if any, is few, isolated and minuscule, arousing a cocktail of senses including loss, wonder, loneliness, and vulnerability against the vast openness sometimes mixed with that has always been reflected in Khalili’s work. Large monolithic surfaces bear signs of weathering or rusting created by the artist not by realistic representation but through replicating reductive effects of time and nature on his working material, i.e. paints, using techniques such as thinning paint or scratching the surface. The artist believes that besides technical aspects, his brushes tend to pick up the ethereal qualities of time, memory, and introspection in “constructing” his visually captivating, forgotten monuments.

Mohammad Khalili, Untitled, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 70 cm, 19 3_4 x 27 1_2 in

The present series consists of a selection of large paintings and monoprints that the artist began to create in 2019 after being attracted to a set of derelict roadside structures on a trip to northern Iran, Mohammad Khalili was particularly captivated by the sturdy, heavy geometric units stacked upon each other without any mortar or other binding elements making the resultant from ironically rather unstable and fragile to the external forces of nature.

Mohammad Khalili, Untitled, 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 165 x 200 cm, 65 x 78 3_4 in

As the title would suggest, the Claustrophobia series offers Khalilis’s tightest encounter with his favorite subjects: worn-out structural blocks so close that the sky and any other source of light are reduced in the composition in favor of menacingly enclosing cement blocks, cylinders and jersey barriers.

Mohammad Khalili, Untitled, 2022, Monoprint, 20 x 25 cm, 7 7_8 x 9 7_8 in

Another significant element present in these works is water and how it penetrates these rigid and richly textured landscapes though its soft persistence. Here, the visual and sensual contrast between water and monolithic blocks is heightened thanks to the intimacy of elements in these tight spaces. The water through its light reflections brings a welcome counterbalance to each otherwise suffocating scene. Interstingly enough, while figures are rare, one can sense a more private kind of presence in these locations, one’s own! It is as if the viewer has dream-walked into sense of initial calm followed by anxiety, as the viewer gaze upon aging structures at the mercy of an “unpredictable future”


Claustrophobia: Mohammad Khalili’s first solo exhibition at SARAI Gallery.

Location: Saradipour, Iran
Duration: 24 February – 10 March



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