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Parviz Tanavoli's works have sometimes been
described as "poetry in bronze". He believes that sculpture is a
kind of poetry. As he says "I wrote my poetry on the surface of
the sculpture". For Tanavoli, bronze is the most appropriate
material for his sculptural poetry. The main series of Tanavoli's
sculptures are Poets, Lovers , Heechs, and Walls. Sometimes two themes are combined, as in lot 77.
Tanavoli's iconography, the different characters refer to specific
themes that can be related to poetry. Naturally, Poets are an
important theme that implies the freest soul of human kind.
Architecture and poetry combine in Tanavoli's Poets- the figures are
built of components which recall those of Islamic architecture, whilst
parts of the body are covered in an illegible poetic text. The
inscriptions, ornaments and articulations of Islamic buildings tend to
lighten their solemnity giving them an appearance akin to large-scale
jewellery. Likewise, the inscriptions and orifices that appear on
Tanavoli's bronze sculptures enhance the quality of the artwork
embellishing them with a special delicacy, so that they are more than
mere geometrical shapes.
While Heechs are perhaps Tanavoli's
most famous works, the monumental series of bronzes, the Wall,
represent the sculptors greatest and most mature achievement. The
shapely silhouettes of his Walls are inspired by ancient Egyptian,
Sumerian, Arabic or Farsi reliefs, whose surfaces were articulated with
intricate inscriptions. Here the surface is left blank, its text, the
word Heech is contained within it rather than on its surface.
Tanavoli has long been inspired by the word Heech, the Farsi word
for "nothing", which has created in numerous and ever more ambitious
forms. Comprising three letters in Persian language, the word
symbolizes for him both ambivalence towards the past and a sense of
meaninglessness or dissolution with an inadequate present. He once
described the word as his reaction to his environment: "the school
whose methods and pedagogy I could not believe in, the artists who were
trumpeting some new artistic phenomenon from the West, and the
aristocrats proudly bought their second hand merchandise provoked in me
a reaction of protest. Heech was the voice of this protest".
Mysticism enhances Tanavoli's fascination with the Heech, but as he
himself acknowledges, he was also drawn to its calligraphic shape
because of its resemblance to the human body. If the word itself
suggests melancholy, Tanavoli's Heech sculptures are joyful works. They
stand, sit or recline as sensuously eloquent reminders of the plastic
nature of Persian calligraphy. Lot 77 combines the Heech and the Wall,
the former appearst to be pressed by the latter.
By reducing his vocabulary to this versatile anthropomorphous
figure, Tanavoli is, in a way, reacting to the calligraphic excess of
the day exploring the formal, the aesthetic and narrative power of a
seemingly simple image.
"If the astonishing resemblance between a Heech and a human being
did not exist, I would have never involved myself in making it", says
Christie's Auction House
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