PARVIZ TANAVOLI AND ABBAS KIAROSTAMI AT MEEM GALLERY IN DUBAI: 9 November 2009
Meem Gallery is pleased to present the opening of a joint exhibition displaying the work of two of the Middle East's most significant artists, Parviz Tanavoli and Abbas Kiarostami on 9 November. The exhibition will feature 30 pieces by Tanavoli, Iran's most eminent sculptor - including Poet in Love, Poet Turning into Heech, Big Heech Lovers, Standing Heech 1 and 2, and Van Gogh's Ear - and 13 photographic works, including two triptychs, specially selected from the Snow White series, by celebrated filmmaker and photographer Kiarostami.
The book launch for the retrospective monograph on Parviz Tanavoli will take place in January 2010 (exact date to be confirmed). The publication, presented in both English and Arabic, features colour plates displaying a vast range of the artist's work, and essays by Parviz Tanavoli, Kamran Diba, Siah Armajani, Dr. Alireza Sami-Azar, Dr. Shiva Balaghi, Dr. Gisela Fock, Tandis Tanavoli and Maryam Massoudi.
Parviz Tanavoli (b. 1937, Tehran) is one of Iran's foremost artists, considered as the country's first significant modern sculptor. A central figure in the formation of the Saqqakhaneh School - a neo-traditional style of art that derives inspiration from Iranian folk art and culture - Tanavoli has created works in bronze, ceramic, fiberglass and scrap metal. His oeuvre displays a deep engagement with Persian folkloric traditions, poetry and literature, all expressed in a recurring series of subjects, including the calligraphic figure of Heech (Nothingness), Farhad the Mountain Carver, Lock, Poet, Prophet, Lovers, Walls, Hand, Lion and Bird. He is also a painter and created a series of gabbehs during the early 1980s. Additionally, Tanavoli is a prolific writer. He has authored numerous books and articles on the artistic culture of Iran, featuring in publications such as Hali, Tavoos and Oriental Rug Review.
He has held solo exhibitions in Iran, Europe, United States and Canada and participated in numerous biennales and group exhibitions including, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Barbican Centre, London, 1989; Continental Shift, Museums of Aachen, Maastricht, Heerlen and Liège, 2000; Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution, Grey Art Gallery, New York, 2002; and Word into Art, British Museum, London, 2006. His works are housed in international private and public collections, including the British Museum, London; Grey Art Gallery, New York University Collection; Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota; Esfahan City Center; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nelson Rockefeller Collection, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna; Olympic Park, Seoul; DIFC, Dubai; and Royal Society of Fine Arts, Amman.
Tanavoli graduated from the Fine Arts School in Tehran in 1956, after which he travelled to Italy, where he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Carrara. Returning to Iran two years later, Tanavoli exhibited his work- including prints, ceramic and scrap metal sculptures- at Farhang Hall, marking the first sculpture exhibition in Iran and gaining him critical acclaim. In 1959, after receiving a highly coveted scholarship, he returned to Italy to study at the Brera Academy in Milan, under the sculptor Marino Marini, graduating with honours in 1959.
Upon his return to Tehran in 1960, Tanavoli helped establish the curriculum for the newly established College of Decorative Arts - where he also taught sculpture - with artists Houshang Kazemi, Asad Behroozan and Bijan Saffari. The same year, he set up the Atelier Kaboud, a personal studio, funded by the head of the Fine Arts Administration, Mehrdad Pahlbod, which became an artistic hub for contemporary Iranian artists. The studio was the primary setting for the establishment of the Saqqakhaneh School and the Contemporary Artists Group.
A year later, after meeting the American art collector Abby Grey at a group
exhibition in Saderat Bank, Tanavoli travelled to Minnesota as an
artist-in-residence at the Minneapolis College of
Art, later accepting a teaching post there. Here, he began working in bronze, exploring a variety of themes including the Poet, Prophet and Lovers, and was introduced to the contemporary arts scene in the United States, most notably Pop art.
In 1964, he returned to Iran, with equipment donated by the Grey Foundation, to teach sculpture in the Fine Arts Faculty of Tehran University. A year later, he introduced the Iranian art world to the now legendary heech series.
Passionate about Iran's artistic heritage and craftsmanship, Tanavoli founded the Tehran Rug Society in 1973, exhibiting his Lion Rugs from Fars collection in the United States in 1975. Also a keen collector of locks and metalwork, in 1977, 460 antique locks from his collection were displayed by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington. DC, in their Museum of Natural History.
In 1979, Tanavoli retired as head of the sculpture department at Tehran University and left Iran with his family to settle in Vancouver. During this time, he published extensively on the crafts traditions of Iran, travelling to the country regularly for research and continuing to exhibit his works and collections internationally.
In 2003, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art held a retrospective exhibition devoted to the art of Parviz Tanavoli. A momentous occasion, this exhibition displayed his work from the early years of his career to date. More recently, his sculpture Wall (Oh Persepolis) sold at Christie's, in April 2008, setting a world auction record for a work of art by a Middle Eastern artist.
Abbas Kiarostami (b. 1940, Tehran) is internationally acclaimed as Iran's leading photographer and filmmaker. He is also a respected painter, illustrator and poet. Exhibitions of his work have been held in France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Germany, UK, Russia, China, Japan, US and Canada, and his photographic work is held in international collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York, LACMA in Los Angeles, and Centre Pompidou in Paris.
His awards include, First Prize, Fourth Giffoni International Film Festival, Italy, 1974; Prize of International Confederation of Art Cinemas for Where is the Friend's House, Forty-Second Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland, 1989; Prize for Best Director for Close-Up, Fifth Dunkirk International Film Festival, France, 1991; Best Director for Through the Olive Trees, 8th Singapore International Film Festival, 1995; Palme d'Or for Best Film for A Taste of Cherry, Cannes Film Festival, France; Lifetime Achievement Award, Third Beirut Film Festival, Lebanon, 2000; and Glory to the Filmmaker Award, Venice Film Festival, 2008.
Kiarostami studied Painting at Tehran University, after which he started working as a graphic designer. He started taking photographs of Iranian landscapes in the late 1970s - an interest which was intensified at the time of the 1979 revolution, a time that was also a period of personal crisis for him. Kiarostami has said that he regards photography as a purer medium than film, since it is relieved of the burden of narrative or entertainment. Yet he has also commented on the problematic categorization of different art forms:
Why are we always trying to define cinema separately from photography and music? They are connected, they mingle and are interwoven. Why do we like to have something very specific and defined? If that was the case, then the person who likes cinema shouldn't go to the gallery or vice versa. We have to have them all together.
Kiarostami's work - including both film and photography - are characterised by a distinct personal style which combines contemplative, philosophical themes with lyrical translations of neo-realism in modernist terms. His oeuvre includes an extensive collection of images, including roads through rain-flecked windscreens, isolated trees, and vast snow plains. For him, these subjects never fail to spark his interest: 'Two topics have been always inviting for my photography - trees and roads.'
His initial interest in taking pictures was driven by circumstance as opposed to artistic aspirations:
My photographic career started as a matter of fact, when I went to buy a camera for a friend...It was 1,000-something dollars, and I thought, I want to buy one for myself too. It was the exact year of the revolution, 1979. That is when I started taking photographs. We had a lot of spare time because of the revolution. We couldn't make films and we were very depressed. So we took ourselves out of the town to deal with our depression. I had this camera, a Yashica, and started shooting.
Seeing that he took up photography without the intention to exhibit or publish
his work, it came as a surprise when a decade later a friend asked Kiarostami to
select a series of images for an exhibition. His work proved to be a critical
success, and since then he has held over fifty exhibitions worldwide.
The naturalism and minimalism emphasized in his photographs is also the driving force behind his films. Kiarostami's innovative approach and vision led him to experiment with digital cameras, amateur casts, and improvisation. His docudrama Close-Up (1990) received accolades from directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese.
In the Snow White photographic series, Kiarostami explores solitary scenes of snowy landscapes, capturing the mountains on the shores of the Caspian. Such works are the result of the artist's long walks in search of film locations, leading him to stunningly desolate areas of Iran which, when captured as still images, evoke a sense of meditative solitude. At times, the viewer is left to contemplate a detail of the landscape - such as the motif of a tree - while one is also presented with breathtaking panoramic views, highlighting the overwhelming impact of nature. Yet there is also a charming simplicity to these works, encapsulated in a poem written by Kiarostami in the opening of his Snow White catalogue for the collection:
On a snowy morning
I run out
hatless and coatless
happy as a child
His Trees and Crows series was exhibited at Meem Gallery in March 2009.
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