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Passions of Lorestan: An Exhibition by Yadollah Rezvani

Source: Gallery Mamak, Tahran

Conversation With Yadollah Rezvani

Q: Well, Mr. Rezvani, tell us a bit about your background.

A: I was born in Tehran, in 1948. I come from a very culture oriented family. I used to paint as a child. In spite of all my love for painting I decided to study electrical engineering at university. However, I continued to paint and I even had some exhibitions when I was working on my master's degree. Later, I got a scholarship to go and study in France where I was exposed to a different world of art, literature and philosophy. It was at this time that I read a lot and painted a lot too. Right after this I stopped painting.

Q: Why?

A: By the time I stopped I had moved back to Iran, gotten married and I was working in the deserts in the south under the heat of Khuzistan summers; there was no room left for concentration or creativity.

Q: Many Iranian artists have been inspired by the desert and its mysteries, its silence. Why not you?

A: True but it was all just too much for me. I was a perfectionist who had to work fast. My techniques have always been very quick techniques, even when I used to draw. This always put a lot of pressure on me. I found it hard to attain the kind of focus and attention that artistic work requires.

Q: Do you think there's pressure on all artists?

A: No, not at all. I was different. I would never put a lot of time or thought into a work. That's why this bothered me. I did try painting with a specific concept in mind for a while. I remember a time when I had read a sentence by Imam Hussein, "Life is an ideology and one only works to that end."
For a while I studied teahouse paintings, contemporary art, ceramic paintings and the like to draw out Imam Hussein's concept of life. I tried to create a modern teahouse painting style with traditional ceramic forms and colors mixed with my own modern forms and colors. These were part of the collection I exhibited in Denmark.

Q: You never went back to painting?

A: Not until my oldest daughter had grown up and I was trying to show her how throw-aways can actually be used to make beautiful things. We started out making jewelry for the girls with stuff that was leftover and unwanted in the house. Soon they were bringing their friends from school home with them to make their trinkets. Suddenly we had about four hundred pieces all made by young artists.
We then decided to set up an exhibition for these girls where they could show their work. The end result was that I seemed to be enjoying this more than the girls were.

Q: Is this how you started making jewelry?

A: This is where the idea comes from but this wasn't the full start. It wasn't until I took a trip to Paris and went to see the jewels at the Louvre with my daughter that I realized that some of the motifs we had come up with were the same as the motifs in the museum pieces.
There was a lot of primitive work similar to the ones I had made with the girls. We were using primitive designs and stones simply because they were more accessible to us.
This made me think that maybe there really is a common archetype of sorts hidden in us all: something so deeply imbedded in our culture that we don't even see it any more. I found it fascinating that so many of the motifs I was using were almost copies of ancient Iranian artwork.
This is when I started to think that it might be time to move on to more serious work. I went out, bought the materials I needed and started. I spent the next two months working at home and consciously trying to stay as far away from routine problems as possible.
This time I wanted to experience things in reverse chronology. I started making what to me were modern pieces. Once I was done I went in search of the roots of these motifs to find if these too exist elsewhere. Again what I found was interesting. Elements and designs that I thought were inspired by work from the Qajar period and seemed so modern to me could be traced back to prehistoric works.

Q: Did this affect your vision of life?

A: In a way, yes. Suddenly I was learning a lot about my own culture and history and enjoying its hold on me.

Q: Iran has a history of art and design that exceeds three thousand years. Have you ever thought of working with the motifs of only one of its periods?

A: Yes. When I work I try to portray the feelings and moods of one historical period of Iranian history. This is particularly true of the works I did when I was studying the Sialk Hills around Kashan.

Q: What is Sialk?

A: Sialk is a large ancient archeological site about two hundred kilometers south of Tehran. It borders the city of Kashan and the earliest remains in Sialk belong to as far back as 5000 years ago.

Q: Where do you work?

A: I don't have a workshop. In fact my workshop is the family kitchen and I work with very primitive tools. Because I work with very elementary tools and techniques I usually don't have much welding in my works.

Q: Do you work this way to prove anything?

A: I do. In Iran contemporary jewelers have become very westernized and busy copying the ways of the West. There's nothing wrong with the West but I often find we're doing this at the expense of losing our own ways. I want to say that our ways, while sometimes primitive, are ways through which we can still come up with beautiful creations, creations that can stand and make a statement.

Q: You seem to have also done a lot of research on the bronzes of Lorestan. Can you describe your findings to us?

A: For a while I was obsessed with Lorestan bronzes. Lori pieces that date to as far back as eighteen hundred years before Christ are highly ornamental with exquisite workmanship. I was very much inspired by these works and I decided to learn their techniques and though I wasn't ever actually able to copy them I came up with my own which is pretty close to theirs.
In my case I suppose you could say it's my philosophy that sets my technique.

Q: And just what is that philosophy?

A: It's a philosophy of aesthetics and life.


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