Deep-thinking 52-year-old Iranian artist Mehrdad Mohebali’s latest exhibition, ‘Mr Passive’, explores the nature of humankind from a voyeuristic-style viewpoint. Running at Gallery Etemad until February 18, the show captures subjects (including the artist himself) in various poses as they go about their day-to-day routines. Although several of his pieces have poignant undertones (many relay Mohebali’s own political leanings), his detailed works are also punctuated with subtle flashes of dry humour. Here, the artist reveals where to spot the jokes.

The Others
What’s the main idea behind this work?
The literal meaning could be the one per cent that rule and the 99 per cent that are ruled.

Your subjects are commonly seen reading books, but in some cases the pages are blank…
In this case it is I, the artist, who is separated from the rest of the crowd. The other characters in the painting are reading blank pages, while the only person with a book that contains text is an older version of myself. This can be read symbolically as a process whereby you no longer need to force an action – it’s a way of letting go from the past.

How did you choose the characteristics for the people you’ve painted?
A lot of the male figures are me, at different stages of my life and at different ages. The others are a broad spectrum of people I know and also people I pick out from a crowd.