Ashkon Haidari, installation view of “Under the Cherry Moon” at Povos, 2023/Photo courtesy of Povos.

Under the cherry moon anything is possible. Unreal landscapes with figures that twist and morph in fantastical ways come to life. Human-like forms, animals, seemingly from distant lands, and strangely shaped objects coexist. Surrealism thrives. The color palette—a striking blend of intense and subdued hues—adds to the mystique as Ashkon Haidari turns daily observations, experiences and reflections into drawings, paintings and etchings in captivating ways. Putting a contemporary spin on Surrealism, the Iranian American artist crosses over from reality to the boundless world of imagination.

A white fox howling, an upside-down balloon, a female figure who’s missing an ear, another whose high heels look abnormally away from her body, a long tube-like fabric with a tiny doll-like hand emerging from the end in an effort to hand you an apple, long-tailed dragon-like creatures, red roses lying on the floor, a monkey on roller skates… That’s just a taste of Haidari’s work that shines under a reddish full-moon-shaped pendant lamp. Elsewhere, deep down in a secluded gallery room, black-and-white drawings fill the space. One can’t help but feel like they’re allowed a behind-the-scenes look into the artist’s elusive process—and perhaps even his mind.

Ashkon Haidari, installation view of “Under the Cherry Moon” at Povos, 2023/Photo courtesy of Povos.

Through metamorphosis and transformation, symbolism and allegory, Haidari delves deep into the subconscious: harnessing the reservoirs of his creativity often comes by simply letting go. As a result, he fearlessly embraces irrationality and the absurd. His large-scale paintings transport the viewer to a different world and Povos gallery becomes an enchanted forest of sorts. In the appropriately titled “Under the Cherry Moon” exhibition, celestial influence is palpable.

With an approach that’s deeply rooted in tradition and looking up to legendary masters such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, the artist introduces bizarre juxtapositions, dream-like effects and fragmented memories. His meticulousness is evident in the intricate details—hidden elements that serve as Easter eggs and are intentionally left open to interpretation. As the viewer is left to figure it out, they find themselves in a rabbit hole of distorted imagery that could mean anything—literally.

Ashkon Haidari, installation view of “Under the Cherry Moon” at Povos, 2023/Photo courtesy of Povos.

“My artwork, as much as it is my blood sweat and tears, is also a mystery to me,” says Haidari. “It is the mirror that reflects my state of being; It is the narrator of my experience,” he adds, revealing an enigmatic tapestry of emotions and experiences—a journey into the unknown even for himself. As the work manifests, intertwines and evolves, it seems to take a life of its own not only drawing from the depths of the artist’s subconscious but also thriving in its ability to evoke profound introspection to the viewer. It is only when they delve into their own creative depths and emotional wellspring, when they craft their own narratives and when they are fully immersed in the exhibition’s unexpected otherness that Haidari’s work has come full circle. Reveling in the uncanny, “Under the Cherry Moon” offers a refreshing take on contemporary surrealism, an escape and a fascinating journey of discovery, all at once. You just have to let go.

Ashkon Haidari’s “Under the Cherry Moon” is on view at Povos, 1541 West Chicago through October 28.