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Of Ropes, Rocks And Opposing Forces: Iranian Artist Mina Nouri

Source: Gallery Mamak, Tahran

painting-oil; dimensions: 75.5cm x 79cm (2007)

Biography: Born in 1951 in Tehran, Iran Mina Nouri grew up in a traditional family whose strict code of 'musts and must nots' later influenced her outlook on life and became the focal point of her works. Nouri studied painting, xylography and chalcography in Italy. She then went on to become a member of the faculty at the Farabi University and the Tehran University of Arts from 1975 to 1996. Mina Nouri has published several books including A Practical Study of Serigraphy, Printmaking, The Chalcography Technique and The Etchings of Mina Nouri. Nouri has participated in numerous individual and group exhibitions in various cities of the world ranging from Tehran, New York, Paris, Geneva, New Delhi to Washington DC. The theme that fascinates this artist is that of contradiction which prevails in all aspects of life. Her simple colors but highly expressive forms juxtapose one another to make a profound social, cultural and individual statement. She thus draws the viewer into her works and makes him think of elements he sees but disregards in daily life. As the artist herself says she sets out to reject traditional interpretations of the basics of life and she uses figurative elements to establish a relation between her works and her viewers. Mina Nouri is presently living and working in Tehran.

painting-oil; dimensions: 54.5cm x 65cm (2006)


Of ropes, rocks and opposing forces

Iranian artist Mina Nouri describes her art of contradictions

My world is that of a solitary human being faced with an array of contradictions. My main goal in life is to record some of them. I was born in Tehran, in 1951, into a family which adhered to customs and traditions with clear-cut 'musts' and 'must nots'. When I grew up a little, I had the feeling that I was different from members of my family. They did not understand my wishes and desires. My father faced a dilemma in dealing with me and had to act contrary to his general attitude; therefore, many of the 'must nots' became 'musts'. Then I went to school. Everything there was 'must' and I quickly found myself in contradiction with the school. Those school years were very difficult and I spent them in absolute solitude, during which time I thought solely of painting. Painting became my only joy but, to sustain it, I had to learn the alphabet of the visual language. Therefore I travelled to Italy to study painting and, at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome, the Accademia di Albertina, Turin and the Instituto Statale d'Arte, Urbino, I also became familiar with printmaking; it was a wonderful experience.

I have not ceased working since 1970. My theme has been the concept of contradictions, a theme that prevails in all aspects of life: forms, colors and compositions; contradictions between a realistic and an abstract view of life, between figurative and non-figurative elements, between known and made concepts. Social, cultural and lastly individual contradictions are always on my mind. Yet, I have no inclination to depict them overtly.

painting-oil; dimensions: 54.5cm x 65cm (2003)

As an organic form, with a repetitious rhythm in structure, the expressive potential of rope first attracted me in 1988 and has appeared in my paintings ever since. The form of a rope can be soft and flexible yet it is solid with a regular structure. So, considering my own interpretation of its form, I combine it with other natural forms that have an irregular, non-rhythmic structure, to portray the tension and interplay between opposite forces. At one time, I imposed ropes and a white square on to backgrounds and depicted some aspect of nature: landscape, sky, clouds and portraits. At another time, these ropes and white squares appeared on surfaces of varying texture. Later, I dispensed with the white square and juxtaposed imagery of ropes with small rocks. I adopted different techniques: colored pencil and pastel on paper, oil on canvas, monoprint, etching and aquatint. Each series of these works was displayed in solo exhibitions in Tehran. The latest series of etchings and aquatints was executed in autumn 2002. They were published as a book: The Etchings of Mina Nouri, which accompanied an exhibition.

In 1997, several artists were invited to draw a portrait of the pioneer of new poetry in Iran, the revered Nima Youshij (1897-1959), on the occasion of his centenary. I embraced the idea because this poet's thoughts too, during his lifetime, ran contrary to that of the general literary community in Iran. Work on this portrait, given my awareness of Youshij's convictions, was not difficult. As I was, at the time, experimenting with several techniques, I executed this work in aquatint and etching on two plates - copper, another zinc - and printed ten of them in four color variations in my studio.

In recent years, I have noticed that viewers spend more time at my exhibitions. Most are probably searching for an answer already imprinted in their minds: that is the familiar concept of rope. This answer has a literary connotation and I strongly reject this traditional meaning. My definition is one that is visual, subjective and abstract. Figurative elements are my means of establishing a relation between viewer and artwork. What interests me is that the viewer can immediately see but not what he wants to see. This is a matter of contradiction. The viewer is forced to ponder because of the abstract nature of the mind and the figurative essence of the picture. Just like when I was a child, I still wish to convert those 'must nots' into 'musts'.

Nouri, Mina. "Of ropes, rocks and opposing forces." Printmaking Today winter 2003: Vol. 12 #4.

Introduction to The Etchings of Mina Nouri

'From 1988 I became fascinated with the organic form of the rope and its recurring rhythmic composition which I began to incorporate in my paintings.

A rope is soft and flexible yet consistent in form and at the same time subtle and orderly in structure. Inspired by its form and structure I have combined this with elements in nature which are structurally irregular and arrhythmic in order to express the play of opposites.

In one period of my work ropes together with a white square were imposed on a background from nature, landscape, sky, clouds or a portrait, while at another time they lay on surfaces of varying textures. Later in my work, in the absence of the white square, ropes were juxtaposed with rocks.

I am not concerned with the literary connotations of rope. In principle, narrative painting has never appealed to me. If I were to tell a story I would be certain to use writing as a medium rather than painting.

To paint I need to think in the language of images with its own symbolic concepts and metaphors. What is important to me is to be able to represent opposites, a concept that prevails in all relationships in life, in forms, colors, compositions etc. It can be presented in visual or auditory forms as well as in writing. Within opposites lies the potential for perfection which in itself merits observation.

painting-oil; dimensions: 65cm x 85cm (1998)

This book is a collection of my experiments, from 1997 until 2002 in Chalcography (intaglio) using etching and aquatint on copper and zinc plates. I have also used the technique of Monoprint not in its classical application of producing a one off print but in combination with Chalcography which in turn has made it possible for me to make further prints.

The thickness of copper and zinc plates used were 1-1.5mm and 2mm respectively. The works in this collection have been printed in Italian Cometa ink, French Charbonnel ink, Iran ink (make in Iran) and German GS ink. Most of the works have been printed on 285gr Italian Fabriano paper using a Nuovo PONY copperplate press made by a Paolini Company in Italy.

A characteristic of Chalcography (intaglio) is the impression the printing press leaves on etching paper, a feature that makes this distinct from all other visual arts including painting or drawing. I was for some time preoccupied with how I might achieve the same effect with offset printing. I contacted several printing houses with advanced machinery and expertise in offset processes. Originals were scanned but this did not achieve the desired results...

Mr. Ahmad Aali suggested making slides of my work under unconventional lighting using a complex photographic technique. The slides were then scanned and the result was the exact match of what I had in mind...'

Nouri, Mina. The etchings of Mina Nouri. Tehran: Mina Nouri, 2002.

... Payvand News - 02/10/09 ... --

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