Double delight: Farjam Foundation show ties classic to contemporary - GulfToday

Double delight: Farjam Foundation show ties classic to contemporary

Arash Nazari’s work Tahmasb defeats the Div.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The Farjam Foundation, located at Unit GF-97 Gate Avenue (Zone C), Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), is presenting (Feb. 24 – June 24) Echoes of Infinite: Poetry’s Visual Symphony, a contemporary take on classical themes in a series of paintings by Iranian artist Arash Nazari, juxtaposed with 15th–17th century miniatures from the Shahnameh or The Book of Kings, Ferdowsi’s epic poem (940-1020 CE). All the works are from the The Farjam Collection.

The privately held Collection is the result of a singular effort that spans the early Islamic age to present-day artistic practice across regional geographies and further. Featured in the show are four works by Nazari, alongside ten miniature folios of Shahnameh. The twin offering bridges the past and the present in a temporal arc. Nazari (b. 1980), is a self-taught Iranian artist.

He is fascinated by the paintings of the Shahnameh. His practice explores the original techniques of Persian Negaargari adorned by his personal intuitive speculations. Negaargari is a classical style of miniature painting or illustration that often features elaborate scenes in tremendous detail, reflecting themes of literature, mythology, and royalty, mostly within a cultural and religious framework, using fine brushwork and intricate colour palettes.

Nazari’s re-interpretation unfolds after an extensive study of the past for adaptation to the present – evolving technically and involving cat-hair brushes to industrial brushes, natural handmade colours to synthetic oil paint, small scale to expansive dimensions, and detailed patterns to minimal forms.

 Exquisite details of a page from Shahnameh.

The running colours in his paintings evoke a sense of speed, symbolising the rapid changes of contemporary life, with the focal point of his works lying in the carefully chosen central scenes from the Shahnameh. The exhibition also seeks to magnify the glories of the exquisitely detailed, early illustrations portraying mythical stories of heroic tales, with their rich tapestry of symbols and legendary characters that reflect ancient beliefs and traditions, as seen in the Shahnameh.

The show attempts to recreate narratives through the lens of imagination, reviving a past era which perhaps extends towards eternity. Echoes is designed to provoke the viewer into a profound reflection of the essence of traditional arts and the adaptation of the timeless treasures to the modern world.

It highlights creative expressions that lie at the intersection of poetry and visual art, and explores the nature of the poet and the artist, drawing inspiration from historical events, wars, and the cyclical rise and fall of civilisations.

“The purpose of poetry and art is not only for them to be read or viewed, but also for understanding and interpreting them without the need for an elaborate storyline that details wars, conquests and resurrections as they happened throughout history,” says Marjan Farjam, curator.

 A page from the Shahnameh.

The richness and depth of The Farjam Collection provides the opportunity to showcase Arash Nazari’s exquisite contemporary paintings alongside his source of inspiration - the folios of Shahnameh, dating back over a thousand years ago, she added. “This exhibition serves as an encouraging platform for learning, exploring and reflecting on traditional arts, with the aim of bridging past and present.”

Through his works which are heavily influenced by Negaargari, Nazari brings to notice the contrast between the unique classical art of the miniature which is “opposed” to colour tones from contemporary minimalist art. He lays a classic painting in the centre of the frame and shows stretches of colour from the Negaargari on both sides; they represent speed and change of time periods.

“It is as if we have passed by them briefly over time, and saw the brief moment of this art,” he says. His paintings are rooted in history and Nazari has earnestly looked at his cultural history, employing parts of it in his works.

There are facets of wars, kings and heroes that have been selected from Negaargari versions in the 8th to 11th centuries in his art pieces. Although they have been extracted from the midst of Iranian paintings, Nazari changes them drastically.

He has the ability to show the contemporary atmosphere through the changes. Speed is the motivating force for the alterations. The artist has accelerated everything. The battle scenes see dramatic shifts and differences and it is as though the classic style of Negaargari has been catapulted from the past to the present.

In the paintings, there is a kind of neutralisation of theme and attention to form. Colours emerge more purely in horizontal lines, as though someone were recreating the nature of dyes used in Negaargari, in a laboratory. Existing forms and colours of Negaargari are given more energy. A new space is provided for images belonging to Ferdowsi’s epic poem, by bringing them to a contemporary setting.

Nazari has extracted paintings from their hiding places among books and museum windows and brought them centre stage. The process of discovering cultural history and displaying it freshly anew, creates a visual dialogue.

It is a dialogue between mythological themes of the past and contemporary inquiries and concerns. In doing so, he invites viewers to see the past and the present simultaneously. The artistic and cultural mission of The Farjam Foundation is to promote art and serve a broad scope of young people, art enthusiasts, scholars, and curators, and overcome cultural barriers through educational and art-related tools.

Foundation holdings include early, modern, and contemporary art. Its year-long rotating exhibitions are drawn from The Farjam Collection and are accompanied by educational programmes about the artworks on display.

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