The artist’s new mixed-media works are assembled using quilts sourced from Tehran’s bazaars, and layered with fabrics collected by the artist over decades.
The exhibition’s title “Shah Abbas and his Page Boy” references Muhammad Qasim’s 17th century painting of the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I in the collection of the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
Iranian artist Fereydoun Ave’s newest works are inspired by painter Muhammad Qasim’s 17th century painting in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, and are on view in his solo exhibition “Shah Abbas and his Page Boy” at Rossi & Rossi, Hong Kong until 29 July 2017. Resembling quilts named lahaf that are often placed in domestic settings in Persian culture, the works are a commentary on the conventional boundary between public and private.
Born in 1945 in Tehran, Fereydoun Ave is hailed as a leading figure in the first generation of Iranian contemporary artists. He studied in the United Kingdom and the United States and worked at various organisations such as the Iranian-American Society and the National Theatre in Tehran before the Iranian Revolution. Against the backdrop of the flourishing of Tehran as a cultural hub in West Asia in the 1970s, the artist founded an alternative art space in the city in 1984 known as 13 Vanak Street.
His works have been included in collections around the world, such as Contemporary Art Museum, Tehran; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the British Museum, London. His works have also been exhibited widely, including at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel; Barbican Art Gallery, London; and AB Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland, among others.
Shah Abbas I and his Page
Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) was a powerful ruler of the Safavid dynasty in Iran. In 1627, court painter Muhammad Qasim Musawir portrayed the ruler embracing his page boy while he was offering the ruler some wine. The ink drawing on paper shows a stark contrast between the public image of the ruler and his private life. Based on the notion of the discrepancy between the private and the public spheres, artist Fereydoun Ave creates a series of textile collages to draw attention to the domestic interior of Iranian civilisation.
Textiles and Fabrics
Fereydoun Ave is known for his “Rostam” series earlier on that explores Iranian masculinity. Having worked in the art and cultural sector for almost 50 years, the artist has curated numerous exhibitions and fostered the career growth of many contemporary Iranian artists. In his recent series “Shah Abbas and his Page Boy”, he creates collages out of his collection of textiles. He commissions blankets from the bazaar in Tehran and assembles them in a way that resembles pre-modern Persian blankets known as lahaf.
In a brochure (PDF download) for the exhibition, art historian David Gleeson writes:
These recall the pre-modern blankets (lahaf) that used to placed over domestic braziers (korsi) and around which people would sit and keep warm during cold weather. Iranian society would congregate around the korsi with their legs under the lahaf blanket, discussing news, views and whatever else came to mind.
In short, the role of the lahaf blankets is central to human interaction in Iranian society.
Private and Public
Curator Peter Fischer mentions in his essay “This and That. Fereydoun Ave’s Image of the World” about the ironic condition of the lahaf:
In their function as blankets they promise protection and warmth, but are also capable of concealing, suppressing, covering up and suffocating.
In Iran, the domestic interior is guarded. Yet, in this series of patchwork textile collages, the artist seeks to invert the conventional boundary between private and public to showcase the intimate and forgotten stories in Iranian history and civilisation.
Traditional Culture with Contemporary Flair
Iranian artist Fereydoun Ave’s contemporaries include Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg. Combining the traditional aesthetics of the East with the avant-garde expression of the West, the artist fuses gestural abstraction, assemblage and Persian textiles in his work.
Fereydoun Ave met the late artist Cy Twombly in the 1970s and remained friends. Earlier on, he curated a show to pay tribute to Twombly’s use of calligraphic lines and mark-making. Speaking about Twombly’s influence on his work in an interview, he mentions:
He was the person who completely changed my vision about visual arts and artists and we became great friends.
The inter-cultural exchange is manifest in Fereydoun Ave’s approach to the works in the current exhibition, as well as in his role as a collector and mentor to an entire generation of Iranian artists.
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