Hannibal Alkhas, son of the Assyrian writer Rabi Adai Alkhas, was born in Kermanshah, Iran, in 1930. His uncle John Alkhas is one of the two most famous Assyrian poets in the 20th century. Hannibal spent his childhood and teenage years in Kermanshah, Ahwaz and Tehran. In 1951, Hannibal moved to the United States in pursuit of his education and studied philosophy for three years at Loyola University of Chicago, Illinois.
From 1953 to 1959 he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned his Bachelor's and Masters of Fine Art, In 1959.
After the death of his father, Hannibal returned to Iran. He began teaching at the "Tehran School of Fine Arts" for nearly four years. During that time he also established the successful Gil-gamesh Gallery, the first modern Art Gallery in Iran, where aspiring young artists were introduced.
In 1963, he returned to USA and taught art at Monticello Collage, in Illinois, where he became the chairman of the art department. In 1969 he went back to Iran and taught at Tehran University for eleven years.
In 1980, Hannibal was spent twelve years teaching arts at the Assyrian Civic Club of Turlock, private collages and The University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles. Since 1992, he teaches at Azad University, Tehran. He also holds private painting classes and writes as an arts critic in various Iranian Magazines.
Archaic Customs and the Mysteries of Migration: Soumaya Saikali
Colors use for their emotional effect, to enhance the mood of brooding melancholy and poetry offered in strikingly supple style, made Hannibal Alkhas’s recent show at the Afrand Gallery, an exceptional event.
The absence of the Assyrian Iranian artist, who was away for check-up in the United States, proved disappointing to many enthusiasts who long for the great art professor’s elaborate explanations on such occasions. However, the paintings themselves were of exalting effects and bore witness to the creative power of imagination of the charismatic man. Also a video tape recording, that provided a recent interview with the artist, proved some consolation to those who had come to visit Alkhas and venefit from his art lectures.
The oil paintings and a smaller number of water-color, completed in recent months, since the artist’s return from the States after a lapse of seven years, are continuations of an earlier collection that was arrayed this time last year at the Seyhoun Gallery.
There is no doubt as to the esteemed position of Hannibal Alkhas amongest contemporary Iranian painters. Over the past three decades his contributions has brought forward a new expression to local art. Sometimes restless and vehement in nature but always true to the bold motives that bring inspirations to artist and art alike, he has ventured through all the experimental grounds that catered to the demands of new expression in art. And his works have now all the clear and lucid that he has worked for all his life.
His simplified forms and the patches of White, yellow, blue and crimson red give pronouce effects to the flat areas surrounded by definite outlines. Nothing rigid or doctrniare seem present and the main theme appears to be a total liberation from every kind of restriction.
Sometimes, distortions that are intended to convery symbolical ideas are observed. But strong, projection of the artist’s fantasies from mythological realms provide a very personal touch, so that the legendary interpretations of life in general diffuse into our daily experiences. So on the whole, viewers grasp the hidden messages that Alkhas has so delicately interwoven into the works. Beyond those beautiful and bright colors there lay the eternal question that keeps haunting man. Similar to E.H. Paul Guauguin (1848-1903) the French artist who abandoned civilized and cultured city life for the more primitive surroundings, and posed his most urging question as to the destiny of man: (Where are we going?) What are we? And whence do we come? We now find our own Iranian artist probing such similar philosophical is sues but in a more modern context.
The current collection puts strong emphasis on the migration of man. As the paintings reveal mothers holding their babies in their arms, they turn to all directions, be its light, nature, land or sky not really knowing which could be the best guardian of their offsprings.
Here Alkhas maker a very gentle suggestion about man’s confusion over what is best for the future generation’s pattern of thought and way of life. Like so many Iranian who travelled and live abroad for many years in recent times, he finds it disturbing to try and decide what is best.
Do people now simply wish to give their children the best which modern technologies promise to offer, or should they do as their force-fathers did, and hand on whatever that was traditionally passed unto them. In other words, should people cling to the land and their roots, or should they migrate into arlien lands and adjust to new conditions in which their children will have to live as strangers.
And so we see once again that Hannibal Alkhas has probed into the minds of viewers while caressing their eyes with a play of lines and colors.
While holding deep respect for the customs of land, Alkhas gives the premeditated subject an alluring effect. He provokes thought as music provokes thought without the help of idias or images, simply through the mysterious relationships which exist between our brains and these arrangements of lines and colors. Yet the images he provides have much dignity and look at us with an enigmatic eye full of some secret thoughts.
Hannibal Alkhas was born in 1930 om Kermanshah and upon graduating from school proceeded to the Art Institute of Chicago where he received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. Upon his return, he taught for five years at the Boy’s College of Art in Tehran. He was the man responsible for creating the very first modern art gallery of Tehran, "the Gilgamesh" which served as ready ground for promoting such contemporary talents as the late Faramarz Pilaram, Zenderoudi, Ghandriz, Baroujeni, Safarzadeh and Mahamoud Zanganeh.
He also managed to travel and teach in the States while also holding several individual exhibitions in Washington, New York and Los Angeles between the years 1969 and 1985.
However he settled for six years from 1985 to 1992 in the State where his time was mostly taken up by private tuition at Berkeley. But in between terms, he managed to be most active by giving private shows in various cities such as Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles (3 times) and in Canada.
Since his rturn to Tehran, he has taught at Azad University of the Islamic Republic at intervals, but most of his students cherish the years when Alkhas did his best for all those attending the Tehran University Faculty of Fine Arts. Some of the best contemporary artists of Iran presently pride themselves for having been taught by Hannibal Alkhas, the poet, teacher and artist.
Ziggurats of Love, The paintings of Hannibal Alkhas: Gregory Lima
ONE-MAN shows generally bring the artist more prestige than financial profit. Iranian experience was particularly melancholy in this respect. Not only did they fail to bring sales, but they were not particularly notable for bringing prestige. The establishment of the Gilgamesh Gallery has begun to change this. Over the past year every artist who has been accepted for an exhibition at the Gilgamesh Gallery has not only raised the funds to be able to take a trip to Europe.
The single exception has been primativist Zarganeh who simply has no desire to go to Eruope. But has sensational debut at the Gallery resulted in sufficient sales for him to move his family and studio out of a one room flat and construct a three room house in south Tehran.
The driving personality behind Tehran’s only lively art gallery is Hannibal Alkhas, the most stimulating and provocative figurative painter in Iran today.
With an M.F.A. from the Chicago Art Institute, Alkhas returned to Iran some four years ago to paint and teach. Painters the world over are proverbially poor, but none perhaps as impovershed as the Iranian artist who has broken from the hackneyed classic tradition of the Persian miniature to express himself in his own freer visions. Not only could they not sel, but in all Iran, aside form the school auditorium, they could hardly find a place to exhibit.
Alkhas drew to himself the brighter young talent in the country, encouraging a broad variety of styles and individual techniques, finally establishing, the Gilgamesh Gallery last year in his own studio in the attempt to bring this talent before a winder public. In a series of startling exhibitions, he demonstrated an almost unsuspected vitality in Iranian art. At pittence prices, with all the proceeds going to the exhibiting artist, the Gilgamesh Gallery grossed nearly a quarter of a million rials last year. Serous modern art of the leading Iranian artists at reasonable prices was launched before a growing, appreciative and paying public.
Currently on exhibition at the Gilgamesh Gallery and slated for a showing at Farhang Hall, is perhaps the most stimulating exhibition to date, the recent black and white work of painter Hannibal Alkhas himself. The show further illustrates and explores the rich, anecdotal, neorococo conceptions that have become identified with Alkhas’s signature.
You can paint what you see objectively, as Cazanne’s apples. Or you can paint the vision of what you feel, subjectively as Bruegel’s peasants. Hannibal Alkhas has chosen to ignore the architecture of the apple in favor of the peasant.
Alkhas’s peasant is Man in his search for higher understanding, his search for love, for the grace of God. While this quest is individual, taking infinite forms, it is at the same time social and historical. Thus the individual quest has social pattern and historical depth.
This social pattern of the historical process as expressed through individuals has fascinated Alkhas. He has turned to myths, not especially for thematic material, but for the germinal impulsed that give rise to myths, to become in fact his own myth-maker.
Drawing deeply upon the ancient bas-reliefs and stone sculptures of Assyria-Babylon, and Daric Persia, he has extracted a technique that seeks to vitalize the historic process within the passing moment. He has done this by involving the viewer in the time sequence of an action, building up through exuberant invention and detail a variety of unexpected consequential or related activities.
In some canvases the resemblence is to Towers of Babel in which human groupings, one unintelligable to the other, express a common yearning, in others, one finds in ziggurats, an architecture of the infinite moods of love. Through all his paintings there are denotations of the dramatic experiences of the life process, and the human search for love, understanding, the reaching for social and aesthetic ideals. Even in the most individualistc portrait, there is at least a vague sence of a relatedness to something else, the person to population. Sometimes part of this population is actually painted in establishing a subjective relationship that extends both ways between the viewer and the viewed.
Anecdotal as Alkhas may be, his strenght lies not in the story but in the vibrancy of the design. At his best, the formal elements of the painting are in themselves exciting, seen either as form composition, texture, or colour values. In the best of Alkhas, one has the visual experience of a shimmering vibration of ideas within a composition artistically conceived.
And currently at the Gilgamesh Gallery, there is much of Alkhas at his best.