Parviz Tanavoli is a critically acclaimed artist who is widely acknowledged as the “father of modern Iranian sculpture”. Based in Tehran and Vancouver, Tanavoli was a leading influence among a generation defined by its commitment to artistic practices that are both modern and distinctly Iranian. Over many decades, he has refined a complex system of symbols and motifs into a distinctive visual lexicon, fusing Persian traditions with pop sensibility. His work entwines profound sensitivity to language, formal clarity, and conceptual engagement into a forcefully original artistic practice.
Tanavoli has written many publications, dating back over three decades. Selected publications include: The Afshars (in press); Gabbeh: Art Underfoot (2004); Tribal and Rustic Weaves from Varamin (2003); Persian Flat-Weaves (2002); Horse and Camel Trappings from Tribal Iran (1998); Sofreh of Kamo (1996); Kings, Heroes and Lovers (1994); and Shahsavan: Iranian Rugs and Textiles (1985).
There were two groups of artists in those days. One group were those who had come back from abroad mainly from France and sometimes from Italy, and who were very much influenced by the French art, and following their Impressionists, the Cubists and so forth. But then there were a group of artists who wanted to find their identity, and they want to get into their own culture and revitalize that. … And Maya Touliere was center of this group. This group later was named Saqqakhaneh artists. Saqqakhaneh means water house. A water house is a holy place found in every bazaar, in every neighborhood where they supply a barrel of water for those who are thirsty in hot summer of Iran, and they drink a bit of water and they salute their imams or the family of the Prophet Mohammad. …Eventually these places become like a little shrine, and people go there and sometimes they even pray.
When the revolution came by, a new generation of artists appeared. These were called “revolutionary artists”. These are like depicting the scenes of the revolution, the war, the bloody scenes. And they were very aggressive artists. They pushed us away; there was no more room for us because they owned all the galleries and the places that presented us. They were closed down. So artists like me, they were put aside. And the new artists took over. And the new artists were protected by the government. The government provide them studio, gave them salaries, material. Because they were like advertising the revolution. Then right after the revolution, a year after the revolution the war of Iran-Iraq. And these artists were showing the scenes of the revolution, scenes of the war, and the government wanted this.
Poetry of Iran
Some of my artworks are much more stable; some are a bit shakier. Some probably show a lot of sign of power and some are a sign of weakness and so forth. Also of course it depends how people will like to look at it and define it. But I base my work from the very beginning to the very end on the poetry of Iran. I am very much in love with the poetry of Iran. I think it is a rich poetry in the literature of the whole world Persian poetry is very rich and very meaningful. So I have tried to follow the roots of the poets, the roots of Rumi, the roots of Hafez and Khayyam and all of those, that they are not very logical; they are not — but they are mystical, they are symbolic. You can define it the way you want; they are not very definitive and they are not expressed very clear at what the poet’s intention was. I like that way, that kind of thoughts and that kind of handling your ideas because I am a descendant of those poets and I live in a land that you don’t want everything to be set clearly; you want it to be set mystically or symbolically.