Afjei, a master Persian Calligrapher

This is one of the most beautiful renditions of my Persian name, Dordaneh (a unique pearl—dor: pearl, daneh: one, unique):

It was created for me some years ago by  Nasrollah Afjei, the Iranian master painter calligrapher. I visited his most recent works at the Gallerie Nicolas Flamel in Paris some time ago;  I felt a  great sense of admiration and satisfaction in front of his beautiful canvases like this one:

The following is one of his more recent ones from the “Siah Mashgh” series; as young students in Iran, we all had to practice our calligraphy with special pens and the exercises were called Siah Mashgh or the black homework because of the extra black ink!

Even though Persian and Arabic use the same alphabet (Persian has 4 more letters than Arabic which has 28), the writing is way more beautiful and lends itself  better to calligraphy. “Nas’taliq” is the most popular contemporary Persian calligraphy style.

The Persian script is exclusively written cursively: the majority of letters in a word connect to each other. A characteristic feature of this script, possibly tracing back to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that much to the chagrin of foreigners vowels are underrepresented! It’s a bit like shorthand with consonants but mostly omitted vowels.

“In comparison to Europe and North America calligraphy is a far more popular and practiced form of art in Iran and in most other countries around this area. You can spot at least one piece of calligraphy hung on the walls of most Iranian households.”

Since the script is cursive, the appearance of a letter changes depending on its position: isolated, beginning (joined on the left), middle (joined on both sides), and end (joined on the right) of a word.

Afjei is a genius in morphing them into a beautiful image that is part painting and part calligraphy…

I am wondering how Mister Afjei would create his masterpieces had he to work with the old Persian Cuneiform!

For those of you who can still read Persian, here is the poem that Nasrollah Afjei painted/calligraphed for me from the 14th century Persian poet, Shah Nematollah Vali. The main verse where you find my name roughly means “each one of us has a beautiful unique pearl”:

و لیکن هر یکی‌ از ما نکو دردانه ای‌ داریم

اگر رندی و می نوشی بیا میخانه ای داریم

و گر تو عشق می بازی نکو جانانه ای داریم

اگر از عقل می پرسی ندارد نزد ما قدری

وگر مجنون همی جوئی دل دیوانه ای داریم

درین خلوتسرای دل نشسته دلبری با ما

هزاران جان فدای او که خوش میخانه ای داریم

تو گر گنجی همی جوئی در آ در کنج دل با ما

که گنج ما بود معمور و در ویرانه ای داریم

همه غرقیم و سرگردان درین دریای بی پایان

ولیکن هر یکی از ما نکو دُردانه ای داریم

چنین جائی که ما داریم به نزد او چه خواهد بود

برای شمع عشق او عجب پروانه ای داریم

خراباتست و ما سرمست و سید جام می بر دست

درین میخانهٔ باقی ، می مستانه ای داریم

Visit this great site for some amazing calligraphy here.

Art paris 2011: a short walk from sublime to sordid

Art Paris, a major event in the international Art scene took place last month in Paris and was everything from sublime…

…to sordid:

The following are the works that caught and kept my attention so let’s just start from the beginning; if you are lucky you get in the Grand Palais from the VIP entrance and not the main one (below) where you have to wait with the unwashed masses:

The huge glass dome is stunning on its own so imagine how spectacular it was over these amazing galleries.

The first booth had these curious works by Devorah Sperber:

Spools of tread stand for dabs of paint and the images that were hung upside down are only recognized when you see them through an optical device.

The colored thread spools make an abstract pattern that comes to focus when viewed through—in this case— a crystal ball; Cezanne’s still life (below) is recognizable when viewed through this clear acrylic sphere (above).

Without the optical device, you are just looking at thousands of colored tread spools—1470 of them in this case!

The most surprising to me was Van Eyck’s masterpiece, The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin:

The whole image below is recognizable in the little ball above. Magic made of 5272 spools of thread.

On the lighter side of the spectrum, Mister Spock was patiently waiting for me in this work called “Mirror Universe”; like the artist herself, I too remember the 1967 Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” in which a transporter mishap switches the crew of the Enterprise with their evil counterparts, trapping them in a “savage parallel universe.”

That image could be seen through a hemispherical mirror:

I loved the work of the super talented Dutch Artist, Pieke Bergmans:

Liquid light bulbs or “Light Blubs” as she calls them are hand blown bulbs presented attached to pendant and desk lamps or resting on old office furniture.

I met the artist, Aurore Vermue, posing with the spectacular pin and button artwork of Ran Hwang,

in front of the fabulous Kashya Hildebrand gallery:

A nice discovery for me was the work of Katayoun Rouhi; she uses Persian calligraphy in her perspectives; I particularly liked this painting with the little girl in a forest of poetry:

I was the only one bending to be able to read the writings that were all upside down:

Nick Gentry’s portraits made of floppy disks were interesting in their own way:

I had forgotten these disks, superseded by other storage media in only a few years…

These beautiful objects by Winus Lee Yee Mei were called “a group of boobs”:

it was hard not to touch!

The show took a turn for the whimsical with Mauro Perucchetti: from the three little pigs to giant pills and all in Swarovski crystal, resin and arylic,

I liked his “gay” superheroes:

These little child-figures covered with brightly dyed hanji-made scales in yellow and silver are the work of Sun Rae Kim who created these bodiless suits after her daughter, Tscho-Young; they were so cute:

The mind blowing opposite was Jan Fabre’s insect covered sculptures; the Belgian Fabre is a multidisciplinary artist, designer, sculptor, playwright and stage designer. I Just found out that he likes these jewel scarabs because of his great grandfather who’s been a famous entomologist. Yeap, these are beetles people!

The other Belgian great was Wim Delvoye and his persian carpet clad real stuffed pig. This sold for 180,000 euros and I am sure the buyer wasn’t an Iranian!

On a more serene note, Gonkar Gyatso, the Tibetan artist, had “Buddha in modern Times”. You could spend an hour exploring little stories embedded in the image:

I liked the straightforward “Paris Block” by Ralph Fleck; I discovered his site and loved his “figures”.

Persian artists being a hot commodity, Kambiz Sabri was the other Iranian artist showing his sculptures like this funny “pillow”:

So to recap, I went from Philippe Pasqua‘s gory skulls (which by the way I love),

to the sublime Kim Kyung Soo’s “the full moon story”:

Her photos were truly arresting; pure poetry…

And in all this, Albert Watson’s David Bowie was sleeping:

I am very happy I got to know some of these artists’ works; take the time to discover them for yourself. The post has all their links.

Alireza Darvish, the amazing bibliophile

I was blown away a couple of years ago by the work of the super talented Alireza Darvish, and I would like to share it with you; he is in love with books and the way he illustrates with them, makes every bibliophile swoon…

This is his Egyptian version:

I fell in love with Darvish’s “fish-book” below:

I am reading the new translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (my first time) so the following image rings closer:

Darvish becomes playful with his “interbooks”,

The problem of too many books and not enough time:

He’s having fun with the reverse situation too:

the one man book:

He uses books as bridges (I love the methaphor…),

Bu I still love Alireza Darvish’s illustrations when he becomes whimsical like in this one where the woman is reading to the mermaids:

I like his animals,

he gets poetic…

Don’t be fooled by the phantasmagorique side of Alireza Darvish, he has a darker side:

and a way darker side:

but he remains delightful and great to discover!

Visit his site here.

Take a look at his fantastic animations here.

In BBC here.

Marbella, the beautiful woman by the sea

I just got back from Marbella, Spain, where the weather is hot, the sun’s always shining and the colors are intense (at least in July).

For me, the South of Spain—Andalusia—conjures up my beloved Velasquez, García Lorca and of course the native son of Malaga, Picasso. It was my first time in this part of the country so I did the usual tourist things. The great hotels of Marbella looked empty under the sizzling sun; I loved all the local decors like Plaza Romano in Hotel Puente Romao:

Andalusia is the land of Flamenco (not to be confused with the pink bird flamingo) and these paintings by Fabian Perez, translate the passion of this dance into beautiful images:

But the real ladies of Spain were painted by my beloved Velasquez: the Infantas (daughters of a king of Spain, in this case Philip IV)— infanta Margarita who stared at me for years from a poster in my kitchen and infanta Maria Theresa who became the wife of Louis XIV and lived way longer than her poor sister, Margarita.

I will make a post about Velasquez and one about Goya, once I visit the Prado in Madrid, but for now this post should do. These ladies with these extremely wide panniers inspired me to do a little Velasquez of my own:

I even drew one on the walls of the majestic Villa Padierna…

Las Meninas are everywhere in Spain even on a couple of Spanish fans I bought!

I wrote this post listening for the nth time to the superb Miles Davies’ Sketches of Spain, one of his best works.

Now let me take you to old town Marbella. It is a maze of narrow streets with white houses, restaurants and Bougainvillea galore! For good food check out Da Bruno.

Lots of small shops offering completely unnecessary but fun stuff:

The blue hour (the sun sets at 10 pm in summer) is accompanied by a dizzying fragrance of flowers.

I especially liked the  300-year-old statue of the Virgin—Virgen de los dolores— surrounded by dazzling plants:

A fun thing to do was to go to the open air market, bustling with life and colors; my mother (below in the middle) and my cousins were busy making good deals:

Southern Spain is a polka dotted country and they start dancing flamenco early:

Seeing all the beautiful vegetables, the Southern Californian (read Mexican) in me couldn’t resist treating everybody to a homemade quesadilla:

I went south of the border in every detail even the beer:

The trick is lots of green onions!

A good meal with family and friends is one of the blessings we usually take for granted.

Now back in Spain again, I shouldn’t be impressed with flowers but these hibiscuses were a red that only Goya would have understood…

The Villa had a swimming pool, a shallow spanish tile pool, a lion head fountain and Sepideh, my cousin, did her best to model for me by all three!

She looks so authentically Spanish that she’s had gotten into fights with some people in Malaga who accused her of lying when she claims to be Persian; the fact that she speaks Spanish well has not helped!

Can’t resist a poem of Garcia Lorca (english first and then spanish):

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Spain is a beautiful woman…

Check out this clip for a passionate and seductive flamenco dance by Belen Maya and its vocal version, Cante Jondo or deep song.

Watch the legendary Antonio Gades dancing it to perfection here.

Listen to Miles’ Sketches of Spain here.

Watch Carlos Saura’s Iberia trailer here.

For the beautiful poem (in Spanish and English) I used in my infanta image, read Dave Bonta’s post here.

Meeting Edward Hopper, the quiet American in Lausanne

I knew Hopper before I met him again in Lausanne a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to say hello to him again. He had some new things to show me.

I’ve known his beautiful but quiet women:

Silence is ubiquitous in his paintings even when there are many people present—it’s almost as if you have surprised these two ladies having dinner at “Chop Suey” restaurant (1927).  You always feel that Hopper is on the verge of saying something, but he hardly does.

As John Updike observes, “we are always eavesdropping on that wonderful Hopper silence.”

Just twenty years before the above paintings, Hopper painted his women like this (I had fun playing with these little water paintings):

After visiting Paris in 1906, “protected from the slow ravages of compromise—either with public taste or with his own immaturity—he developed his style invisibly along with his character”. Look at his men—I love the look of the dandy:

People at the theater, listening intently:

Hopper was fascinated by the city at night, solitude, and silence; this is where he shines the most: a scene of a roman noir of the 1930’s…

I loved the studies for his most famous painting, the Nighthawks; you are almost waiting for Humphrey Bogart to turn around and say something to you:

Voilà! The quintessential Hopper: “he stares with sober passion at the most ordinary things about the U.S.”

I have great memories of  New York diners of the 1980’s (when I used to take English classes in Manhattan); they conjure up my first impressions of United States. The NY Times article Ajay is pointing to in his comment is an amusing end to the puzzle of Hopper’s DINER. Hopper, famous for his reticence (“If you could say it in words,” he says, “there’d be no reason to paint”) created the Diner in his imagination!

Let’s just go back to his women again. They bathe in liquid light: this movie usher below (1939), waits in her own little world, oblivious to the sound of the film being played next door in the theater.

He painted nudes too—he always used his wife, Josephine as the model;  I like this one best where you can’t see her face:

His paintings are not overloaded with details and information but the essential message is well expressed. The painting below is one of my favorites; Mitra and I stopped in front of it for a few minutes wondering about the simple elegance of this image:

Say hello to Edward Hopper, a silent witness to an American century—he painted during 60 years of his 84 years on earth!

To me, Hopper excels when depicting women—look at this beautiful woman in south Carolina. You can almost hear Duke Ellington’s Chloé…

I waited that morning for Hopper in Lausanne’s Hotel Beau Rivage where you can only afford to have a coffee.

I went to Fondation de l’Hermitage to see Monsieur Hopper and the rest is History…

After the exhibition a stop at l’Esquisse, the little café of the museum, rich with climbing roses.

Hopper’s quiet canvases are well appreciated in these times of constant chatter and chaos; I wonder how he would have painted a rose…

I may see Mister Hopper again in Paris in the near future in Grand Palais from June 10th 2012 through January 28th 2013.

Claude Verlinde and Jacques Poirier, mirage makers.

Claude Verlinde and Jacques Poirier are two underrepresented French painters. They are both master illusionists/image makers/mirage makers.

invitation aux jeux du theatre verlinde micheleroohani

I fell in love with the above painting when I first got introduced to Verlinde’s work in Paris. We all know hollow people, lacking in real value, sincerity, or substance – we have all met shallow people lacking in depth of thought, or feeling. In Persian we call them “hollow drums”: noisy but empty.

the witness jacques poirier micheleroohani

Thanks to the internet we can know of something without really knowing about it. We used to have to read, to see, to hear something in order to be able to talk about it but not anymore folks! everybody’s an expert.

I’ve been wanting to talk about V.S. Naipaul for the longest time. Every time that somebody tries to eat up my life/time, I remember the writer’s fabulous statement reported on BBC: “my life is too short, I can’t listen to banality”.

naipaul young and old micheleroohani

Staying with the trompe l’oeil of Verlinde and Poirier, take a look at this very clever ad: micheleroohani

You can see the rest of these very funny ads here.

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