Cologne-based painter Alireza Varzandeh portrays subjects in physical and emotional motion. With blurred faces, their identities are mysterious, yet each figure’s posture and form suggests a unique personality and history. Scenes of youth, summer, and vacation come alive on his canvases—themes of blossoming and vitality that carry into his floral still-lifes, which radiate the saturated colors of flowers at their height. Light infuses his palette, channeling the fresh atmosphere of the beaches, parks and cafés where he observes his figures with a playful but documentarian eye. Meanwhile, his outsized, expressive brushwork seems to gather as much life as possible into every stroke.

Varzandeh records the world as he sees it. While his work today is optimistic, even romantic, he was repeatedly detained in 1970s Iran for this same tendency, when as a young artist he depicted what he saw as violence in the streets. He arrived in Germany in 1987 as a political refugee and has lived and worked in the country ever since, along with several years spent in New York. “I see myself as a painter, as a craftsman,” he has said—meaning that for him, primary concerns are light and shadow, composition, and gesture. Impressionism, abstraction, and photography converge in his work and process, which often begins with taking photos of daily life and altering the image as he develops a scene.

Born in Shiraz in 1963, Varzandeh studied illustration and design at the University of Tehran as well as Persian ceramics and traditional printmaking techniques, and later received a master’s degree in Graphic Arts and Fine Painting at the College of Art and Design in Cologne. His many exhibitions in Germany and beyond include the Knut Osper Project Room in Cologne, the City Museum in Siegburg, and the Museum of Modern Art in Tehran.