Since the dawn of the Persian Empire in 539 BC, Cyrus the great proclaimed Persia as the bastion of civilization and religious freedom. The effect of letting people pray to the God of their choice was as shockingly correct and forward thinking then as say, de-segregation was to the American South in the 60’s. What naturally ensued in both cases was a fusion of otherwise estranged cultures that morphed into a new breed of civilization.
While perhaps not immediately kinder or more tolerant, the slow but deliberate process of exposure to the new and different inevitably makes for a richer, stronger, more interesting blend as we have seen. The results of both examples gave us everything from the world’s first bona-fide postal system 500 years before Christ (yes, that’s right!) to Jazz and Rock and Roll. Without sounding pithy, the infusion of Persian culture into post 1979 America is bound to have had some enriching affect on all parties involved in this mutually reluctant exchange—the signs of which we witness through our ever evolving art, music and poetry.
A group seven of Bay Area artists, who refer to themselves as “Beyond Persia Artists” and will tell you that they are the pioneer group in Northern California, have made it easy for us to track such social change. Having little in common except their Persian roots and obvious love of art, the comparison/contrast in their work underscores a mix of western influence in a style that is still decidedly Persian. Or by contrast, western looking art, that betrays only hints of their Persian past, like little gems interspersed in a treasure hunt. At its best, the work of these individuals is truly bi-cultural and because of that has arguably created a new genre in contemporary art— but certainly a turning point in Iranian art: it is “Iranian American art”.
When painting Persian art the style of this contemporary artist reminds me of Farshchian's work. Mohammad Reza Sharifi also blends modern art, creating works that use elements from Picasso and others. Here is his biography:
Mohammad Reza Sharifi was born in 1970 in Esfahan, Iran. Since childhood, he has been fond of painting and designing. Upon entering Esfahan Fine Arts School, he started to search for his “lost objective” intensive and with a perseverance double as much as before.
Esfahan historical and traditional buildings and areas well contributed to his painting art. At school, he studied Persian painting and gradually became enthusiastic for the works of Reza Abbasi and then those of western and eastern famous artists.
After graduating from school in the field of Persian painting, he entered the university in the field of painting and got acquainted with modern and classic styles. After graduating from university, he spent most of his time in creating artistic works and held numerous exhibitions. His communication with contemporary painters opened new horizons to his artistic insight.
Encouraged by the elite artists, he published the selections of “The Hidden Mystery” in 1998, and “The Exemplar of the Creation” in contribution with some contemporary Persian Artists in 2000, when he activated his Persian painting website www.sharifigallery.com, which is a selection of his past works.
During his 18 years of artistic record, he held 51 exhibitions around the world.
Sam Fogg will present A Princely Pursuit: Persian Paintings and Illustrated Manuscripts, 1300-1650, an exhibition of over 20 outstanding illustrated manuscripts and leaves, at his gallery at 15d Clifford Street, London W1, from Monday 16 April to Friday 4 May 2007. The exhibition is staged to coincide with Islamic week at the auction houses.
From the Mongol period onwards, the illustrated manuscript was the primary vehicle for the pictorial arts in the Persian-speaking world. Along with Persian language and literature, the Persian arts of the book spread over a vast area that stretched from Anatolia to Central Asia and India, constituting a visual lingua franca that was understood, reproduced and embellished upon.
Though the origins of Persian illustrated manuscripts lie as far back as the 12th century, it was under the Ilkhanid Mongol rulers of Iran at the beginning of the 14th century that the patronage of illustrated books became an established princely pursuit. Curiously for the Mongol Ilkhans, the work most frequently commissioned for illustration was Firdausi’s national poem, the Shahnama or ‘Book of Kings’. The interest in Firdausi’s epic may have stemmed from a desire on the part of the foreign Ilkhans to identify themselves with their Iranian subjects’ national traditions. An illustrated leaf in the exhibition comes from one of the earliest of these Shahnamas, probably made for the Mongol ruler Ghazan in Baghdad around 1300 (fig. 1). It shows the Iranian prince and commander Rustam, depicted in Mongol dress, seated in a tent, receiving the commander of the Arab army, Sa’d ibn Waqqas.
Many of the dynastic and artistic concerns of the Mongol rulers were taken up in the 15th century by the Timurid rulers of Iran, the sons and grandsons of the Central Asian conqueror Timur. Like the Ilkhans before them, the Timurids showed a particular interest in commissioning historical works which sought to give their ruler a sound historical pedigree. Among the most famous of these was a universal history, the Majma’ al-Tawarikh or ‘Collection of Histories’. Commissioned by Timur’s son, Shahrukh, it was written in imitation of the Mongol universal history the Jami’ al-Tawarikh and gave an account of the history of the world from its beginning to the year 1427, encompassing Biblical, Iranian, Islamic as well as Chinese history. Two leaves from one of the large illustrated copies made in Shahrukh’s reign depicting the Iranian king Gushtasp Enthroned and the Qur’anic episode of the Destruction of the Tribe of ‘Ad are included in the exhibition (fig. 2). The large dimensions, 42 x 23 cm, are a testament to the work’s imperial ambitions.
During the 15th century, especially at the cultivated courts of rulers like Sultan Husayn Bayqara, the mystical and lyrical tendencies in Persian painting and poetry became heightened. Illustrated copies of mystical romances such as the Khamsa or ‘Quintet’ by Nizami (fig. 3), or Amir Khusraw Dihlavi’s work of the same name, became popular alongside the traditional epic and historical subjects. The standards set by the rulers of the 15th century were perpetuated at the Safavid court of Iran, as well as centres of commercial manuscript production, the undisputed centre of which was Shiraz. The exhibition includes
several illustrated versions of the Khamsa in the form of leaves from a late 15th century copy in the vigorous ‘Turkman’ style, as well as two complete copies from mid 16th century Shiraz. One of these was illustrated by the most accomplished Shiraz painter of the day, identified by Basil Robinson as ‘Artist C’ (figs 4 & 5). The illustrated Khamsa is a showpiece for this artist’s love of dazzling tiled interiors and luxurious detail, and his skill in composition and expressive portraiture. The five beautifully preserved paintings in a copy of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi’s Khamsa are a superb example of delicacy and lyricism that Persian painting was capable of in the second half of the 16th century (fig 6). Particularly touching is a painting from the story of Layla and Majnun, in which Majnun’s father is shown in search of his son whose love for Layla has led him to seek solace amongst the wild animals in the wilderness.
The 17th century saw new directions in Persian painting and artistic tastes as single page paintings and drawings became increasingly popular. Shah ‘Abbas’ new capital at Isfahan, home to pioneering artists and draughtsmen like the eccentric Riza ‘Abbasi, was the centre of these developments. Despite the popularity of single pages and albums, painting never became divorced from manuscript illustration. Artists like Mu’in Musavvir, one of the pupils of Riza ‘Abbasi, continued to work on illustrating copies of Firdausi’s Shahnama commissioned by high-ranking patrons. An illustrated copy of the epic Garshaspnama is a witness to the continued excellence of manuscript illustration in the 17th century (fig. 7). Dated 1613 and recording the name of the patron as well as the scribe, the manuscript contains 22 paintings in the style of Riza ‘Abbasi, probably executed by his outstanding pupil, Malik Husayn al-Isfahani. Among the remarkable aspects of the fluid and inventive illustrations are the depiction of idol worshippers in a temple as Europeans and the ‘updating’ of the battle scenes to include muskets and cannons.
The spread of Persian language, literature and painting accompanied the expansion of Islam in India. Though the Mughal emperors themselves did not commission copies of the Shahnama, illustrated copies of the work were popular among the Indo-Persian nobility, who probably regarded them as emblems of status and sophistication. The exhibition includes one of the earliest Mughal Shahnamas, dated 1603, containing 66 small, bright illustrations in the ‘popular’ Mughal style that combined the naturalism of Mughal painting with the colourism of Hindu painting (fig. 8 .
Davar Yousefi is an Iranian artist born in 1963. He has an M.A in Painting and has participated in many group and solo exhibitiosn. He presented his works at the second, third and sixth contemporary painting Biennial and also the first and second Tehran International contemporary Drawing Exhibition. He works as an Art Instructor at art universities in Iran. The main focus of Davary Yousefi's paintings are the bright and strong colors that capture the idea so quickly. Here are some sample paintings.
Painter and installation artist Heidi Sandvoll, of Stinson Beach, California has installed seven 7-foot long scrolls executed on paper, depicting her experience growing up as an American living in Iran. The work debuted at The Rebound Bookstore on December 11, 2006.
Says Ms. Sandvoll, “These paintings have developed from a child’s kale
idoscopic memory of life in Iran. I remember nomads. I remember riding camels. I remember bazaars, Persian carpets, and the flat bread. I grew up surrounded by Persian designs. These intricate patterns are home to me.” “The work is built upon the multiple layering of Persian design interwoven with personal images. With the media attenti
on on Iran, this new body of work is suddenly pushed into a political realm. A place I have never ventured in my paintings. This is a new approach to my work. It is an exciting challenge.”
Continued Ms. Sandvoll, "I intend for these works to give an opening to a rich and wonderful culture and people.” Ms. Sandvoll, fresh from desi
gning the sets and costumes for a dance performance in New York. also has a show of dark and mysterious landscapes at the Point Reyes National Seashore Headquarters Gallery, in the Red Barn, One Bear Valley Road in Olema, CA.
More on her website www.heidisandvoll.com.
May 9 - June 30, 2007
Gallery Hours: Tues by appt, Wed - Sat, 12 - 5pm, FREE
Opening Reception: Wednesday, May 9 at 6pm
Most Wanted, a solo exhibition by Iranian-born painter, installation and conceptual artist Taraneh Hemami, investigates the nature of perception, recognition, and representation while examining the construction of the image of the new enemy. Interpretations of a series of faceless portrayals of the most wanted terrorists as identified by the United States government contemplate the ways in which stereotypical perceptions of people are created while pondering the relationship between image and identity. Exploring themes of displacement, preservation, and belonging, her paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and installations investigate the in-between spaces: between art, artifact and architecture; between two and three-dimensional space; between technology and hand crafted objects.
Taraneh Hemami received her MFA from California College of the Arts in 1991 and has exhibited regularly at national and international venues. When Hemami came to the United States in 1978 to attend the University of Oregon at Eugene, she had little idea of what the future held. Within a year of her arrival in this country, the Iranian Revolution had changed her homeland forever and prevented her from visiting for more than a decade. As an Iranian living in the United States, it's not surprising that Hemami's art would explore her complex relationship with the concept of home and her struggle to secure a sense of belonging from both her country of residence and the country and culture of her youth. In many ways, Hemami's art is her home. Influenced by Persian art, architecture and poetry, her multidisciplinary works explore the complex cultural politics of exile through personal and community projects and installations. She has received awards from the Creative Work Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission, California Council for the Humanities, and the James Irvine Foundation. She has been an Artist in Resident at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Montalvo Center for the Arts, California Art Council, Kala Art Institute, and The Lab. She has exhibited her work locally at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, The Lab, Works, Berkeley Art Center, SFMOMA Artists Gallery, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Euprhat Museum of Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She is the 2005-2006 visiting artist at the Center for Public Life at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, CA.