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As we all still try to cope with the horrors of Sept. 11, A Breeze From the Gardens of Persia is something we should see, to remind ourselves of the stunning beauty that is to be had in at least one sector of the Muslim world, and hopefully to educate those who ignorantly believe that maniacal fanatics represent Islamic culture and knowledge.
The exhibit, a joint effort of the Meridian International Center in Washington and the Teheran Museum of
Contemporary Art in Iran is also surprising. I thought that living forms werent supposed to be depicted in Islamic art, but these works are full of them, from fantastic beasts to quite ordinary people.
The paintings displayed around the somewhat dimly lit gallery at the Queens Central Library encompass several styles and all kinds of subject matter. The first painting one sees, Hossein Kashians Hundreds of Angels Kiss the
Hand of the One Who Helps His Fellow Man (1999) is abstract. Painted in acrylic on a shimmery gold background, it hints at the presence of angels by showing hundreds of ascending wings.
Calligrapher Mohammad Ehsaies The Alphabet of Creation is a four-part abstract expressionist work made of swirls of car paint and gouache. In Ehsaies Poem From Omar Khayam (1999) the calligraphy is written in blood red car paint on gold.
Nasser Arastehs joyous, pointillist Beautiful Nature of Iran (1999), and Iraj Eskandaris Persepolis (1999) and Brown and White Study (1999), made of mel on board, are also abstract works. Gholan Hossein Namis Untitled represents what seems like a whirlpool, but is that a face in that little patch of iridescent green and blue to the side? Untitled is one of the few paintings that have an anxious undertone. The happiness and peace that radiate from the other works seem to genuinely spring from the artists hearts, and arent propaganda imposed by a regime. A viewer can tell that rather quickly.
Traditional Persian art, which predates Islam, is represented by works such as Farah Ossoulis Secret Love (1999), where an angel plays a lute for her lover, who is just seen in a doorway. In Gizella Varga Sinais Paradise (1999), flowers break through what seems like a dirty cracked window, or a crumbling semi-transparent stone wall, behind which a gorgeously dressed woman sits offering food to a bird of paradise.
Amir Zekrgoos Time (1999) features a blind, rather Egyptian looking god, fantastic birds and animals, the planets, and beautiful Oriental windows.
Mohammad Bagher Aghamiris A Window To Heaven (1998) in gouache and watercolor, is just that. In the central scene, a bed seems to have been hastily abandoned. Books have been left open, slippers are still on the floor, and theres a feeling of transcendence and ecstasy. In these works the details of whiskers, hair, fire, and flowers, are so exquisitely rendered you think they must have been painted with the single hair of an expensive paintbrush. Years of training are usually required to perfect this sort of technique. These jewel-like works could have been painted hundreds of years ago the dates of their creation are startling.
Other works in the exhibit have been created in a more or less straightforward and contemporary style. Parvaneh Etemadis Male Dancer (from Dancing Papers Series, 1997) is a collage of photos of rich clothing, beautifully empty of a body. Kamran Arastehs Life (2000), made out of glass, enamel and gold on wood is a night scene of a village, while Ali Akbar Sadeghis surreal Still Life With Landscape (1997) seems a humorous nod to Magritte. Within what would be an otherwise very realistic painting check out the detail of the picture frame, the blue and white bowls, the beautiful Oriental rug on the table is another painting of a bowl of fruit in a landscape. One notices though, that one of the apples is blue. Then you notice an apple-shaped piece of landscape has escaped from the picture and falls toward a bowl-shaped piece of landscape with a single red apple nestled in one of its hills. Its an amazing, funny and skillfully rendered work.
Mandana Barkeshlis Birds and Fish (1999) is a quilt of cheerful, interlocking animals made of dyed, printed fabric. Mohammad Ali Taraghijah is an artist of rare skill. Against backgrounds the color of desert sunsets, faceless women, their attention caught by the painter, stand before a herd of beautiful horses who float beneath hills full of crowing roosters.
Simin Keramatis Cloud in The Wind (2000) is a collage of a windswept woman flowing upward into the sky. Rahman Malekis Tree of Life (1999) and Girls on Horseback (1999), both oil on canvas, are rendered in bold colors. In Horseback, a girls long brown pony tail, which has escaped from her scarf, echo the brown tails of the horses.
The scariness of Rezi Bangiz Black Lion (2000) is undercut by the use of a colorful patchwork background; the swatches of flowers look like they belong on a childs blanket.
In Akram Afzalis Untitled (1999), a girl waits, still and patient, in a doorway near flowering wands. Taraghijahs Bride (1999) shows a bride and her attendant. She holds a bouquet of yellow flowers, and sections of her pure white gown are filled with elegant calligraphy. Her eyes and the eyes of her attendant are dark and utterly peaceful.
Mostafa Darehbaghis Lion (1997) reposes majestically in the desert, and Mahmoud Farshchians Impelled to Rebel(1988) shows a horse with a fabulous flowing mane getting ready to bolt. To tell you the truth, this horse with its lovely face reminded me of the delicate and subtly colored illustrations in The Golden Treasury of Wonderful Fairy Tales, which was illustrated by Cremonini and featured a whole lot of blond haired, blue-eyed Arab kids, but no matter.
A Breeze From the Gardens of Persia is an antidote to horror and grief, and the answer to those who believe the Muslim world can produce nothing true, beautiful and valuable. Its at the Queens Central Library, 89-11
Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica, through Nov. 6. 718-990-0700.
Reach Qguide writer Arlene McKanic by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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