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Parviz Tanavoli

 (born 1937)
Parviz Tanavoli is active/lives in Iran, Islamic Republic of.  Parviz Tanavoli is known for abstract, iconic sculpture.

Parviz Tanavoli

Biography from the Archives of askART

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.

Within 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 Tanavoli.

Christie's Auction House

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About  Parviz Tanavoli

Born:  1937
Known for:  abstract, iconic sculpture