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Tehran's Art Scene

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Yesterday we turned the central heating off and last night we turned the coolers on. Life in Tehran has been even stranger lately, specially since the weather was so lovely and pleasant until a few days ago. There was a lovely breeze and although midday sun was really hot, yet when you got into the shade everything would become nice and pleasant again. Suddenly, everything changed in the past few days. I was so hot yesterday when we took a friend to see Tehran bazaar I thought I might die! Well as the saying goes "bademjan bamm affat naddard" and I survived

Artist: Nahid Davarpanah

Tehran art scene has been flourishing as ever, and this week I really did myself a favor going to many exhibitions and even two Iranians films and here is the account what I saw.

(1) Photographic Exhibitions

Photography here is very popular among young Iranians and at times one is truly enchanted with some of the works that these young students present. However, this week I went to two exhibitions of old masters. The first was by Nikol Faridani at Ellah Gallery. Ellah is a very nice gallery with higher ceiling than many others, and one feels not so much thrown into the presented works.

Nikol Faridani's work is mainly pictures from nature with an architecture touch. Yet I must admit that I felt quite surprised as so few pictures worth his credit had been presented there. He is one of the most profound Iranian photographers who uses a 6x6 camera, unlike most others who do outdoor photography. Recently, a great new book has come out in two volumes, but in one collection, one for his color photographs and one for his B&W. This book is a true credit to his great works and his place in the Iranian's photography.

The next Photo exhibition was at 'Raheh Abrisham' gallery which was solely dedicated to exhibiting work on photography in Tehran. The artist was Mr. Abbass Kiarostami, the well known Iranian Film maker who has chosen photography as his hobby. The pictures were very nicely presented in 30&40 cm sizes, all in B&W and mainly taken from roads and landscapes last winter. Maximum of 10 prints would be sold of each picture. I was surprised that so few had the sold sticker on them, and then I looked at the price and realized why! Each photograph was 2,600,000 Rials or just over $300.-

Despite the dirt and gloomy lights I liked these photographs since they made me think of travel and a road to new destinations!

(2) Cinema

I also went to see two Iranian films, Vakounesh Panjoum or Fifth Reaction by Tahmineh Millani and Donya by Manochere Mosayeri. Both films were shown at Cinema Asreh-jadid, formerly known as Takhteh-Jamshid. The cinema has 3 film saloons, and a fantastic reservation system where you can read about the films, reserve tickets and find out the cinema's location through their site address at The staff is polite and professional, and the cinema's waiting area looks clean at the first sight, maybe because of white marbles all around.

The first film, Fifth Reaction, is story of five women teachers who at the beginning of the film tell story of sufferings in their lives. But the main story is about one of them, the best looking one, who after death of her beloved husband tries to get back her children from their grandfather who is an important man yet extremely traditional. She does this with the help of her friends. The support actors in role of her brother-in-law and her brother's land-lady in Boushehr get the best performing marks from me. Many times during the film you wanted to clap because of something that was said that was so close to your heart and the sense of injustice that women in Iran are under. The best thing about the film is that it inspires women to stop being such passive by-standers in regard to their faith and their lives. It encourages them to think and take an active role in their own destiny and hopefully should enough of the ordinary Iranian women get to this point then they may get to the necessary critical mass in order to urge the law makers to change the law itself. Amen!

The second film, Donya, was a light comedy about a Haji who runs a state agency and falls for a young lady, recently arrived from abroad, who is looking for a place. He falls so madly for her that buys ticket for his wife and daughter to go to Syria for pilgrimage, and he ends up marring the young lady and then..... Although one may be forgiven for believing the transformation that Haji agha goes through in a few weeks, yet his later behavior brings you back to earth and you realize that all that change was simply superficial and deep down he has not changed that much. I found it entertaining, we did have a good laugh and my family enjoyed it too. The performance presented by Mr. M.R. Sharifie-Nia as the dirty old Haji was quite good and believable.

Both films had problem with editing, but then you can not be sure why. Was that the fault of the film makers, or a result of the cuts they had to made in order to be able to put them on the screen, or just simply caused by old and used equipments in the cinemas. I can only hope that it was the last one as it is the easiest one to fix. We have decided to support home cinema and stop complaining that this or that is not perfect, and instead just go out for an evening with low expectation and have a dinner before or afterward and get out of the house for god's sake once in a while!

(3) Painting Exhibitions

This week I went to several shows the first was in Barg Gallery which belongs to Tehran Municipality in an alley, above Vanak square before Mir-Damad Avenue. they have three large saloons which are both spacious and large. This quality allows them to show the work of artists who tend to do large scales.

This time the exhibition's title was "Divar-e Sefid - or white wall" (Group Exhibition) - Visual Art. The group were young artists who had their works exhibited before, but are not considered well- known.

Some works were quite interesting. In the first gallery I saw work on ceramic, or clothe threads (black) which took my attention. One lady's paintings reminded me of Ennya- the singer- songs. The works in the second gallery I found more daring and even more mature, yet when I looked at the price tags I could not stop myself saying wowwwwwwwww! They were good but not that good that someone beside mum and daddy would pay such high prices for works of artist that are not known outside their own circle. The average price was above $400. The last gallery was print works to be used in the Textile industry. The works were nice although a little gloomy.

The next show was at Golestan gallery where we saw collage works by Zakiyeh Rahimi. What can I say, one of the most daring shows I have seen in recent times. One must congratulate both the gallery and the artist. When I went in and took a look at the works, what went to my head was: it is not what you have that counts, it is what you do with what you have that is the issue and that counts!

This lady had used old carbon boxes and other scarps around our everyday lives and using chalk and strings had painted or created simple figures on them or with them. What was so amazing was that all these figures, despite their shabbiness were happy figures.

My favorite artist and work of the week goes to Ms. Nahid Davarpanah whose work sample accompanies this article. I find her most original and entertaining. A mother of two, who is very proud of being women, a mother and above all a good artist. The show was exhibited at Arya gallery. I had a real problem to choose my favorite piece. I am still stuck between the red dress and man-woman with flowers as shown here.

Artist: Nahid Davarpanah

Artist: Nahid Davarpanah

Artist: Nahid Davarpanah

Artist: Nahid Davarpanah

Artist: Nahid Davarpanah

I have been to galleries in Europe and I dare to say that many works I see here with so limited budget and equipments are so good that at times can take your breath away. Join me in wishing them all good luck and if Iranian artists' exhibitions come near where you live please go and see for yourselves!

... Payvand News - 5/22/03 ... --

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