Parviz Tanavoli’s Largest Work on Display at Tehran Art Center

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Prominent Iranian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli’s largest-ever work is on display at an exhibition in the courtyard of Tehran’s Art Center since December 18, 2015. This work is from his series “Heech”, which depicts the Persian word “heech” (nil). The sculpture, which is the only one of its kind, was earlier displayed in London and Boston.



This artwork along with a large number of works by other Iranian artists will be on show in the exhibit entitled “Pioneers of Fine Arts” until January 7, 2016. One of the significant characteristics of the expo is a joint work titled 'Roots and Branches' by two artists from two generations. The joint work is created by the first generation painter Nasrollah Afjei and second generation artist Amir Sadeq Tehrani. Other artists participating in the exhibitions include Alireza Espahbod, Ahmad Esfandiari, Aidin Aghdashlou, Sadeq Tabrizi and Hossein Kazemi.



Parviz Tanavoli is one of the most influential and pioneering artists of the Middle East. An artist–fabricator, teacher and collector, he was born in 1937 and lives and works between Iran and Canada. Tanavoli is a founder member of the Saqqakhaneh School (a school of art that derives inspiration from Iranian folk art and culture), a school that has been described as a 'spiritual Pop Art' and is now considered the inspiration for progressive modern Iranian art.



Upon graduating from the Brera Academy of Milan in 1959, Tanavoli taught sculpture for three years at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He then returned to Iran and assumed the directorship of the sculpture department at the University of Tehran, a position he held for 18 years until 1979, when he retired from his teaching duties.



Since 1989 Tanavoli has lived and worked in Vancouver. His latest solo exhibition was a retrospective held in 2003 at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Prior to that he had held solo exhibitions in Austria, Italy, Germany, United States and Britain. Tanavoli has been in group exhibitions internationally. His work has been displayed at the British Museum, the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, the Isfahan City Center, Nelson Rockefeller Collection, New York, Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea, the Royal Museum of Jordan, the Museum of Modern Art, Vienna, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and Shiraz University, Iran.



His key work is the calligraphic figure of Heech (Nothingness), a recurring theme in his sculptural repertory which contains reference to the human figure, evident both in the upright sculptural forms and their titles. 



In 2005, he created a small piece of sculpture called Heech in a Cage to protest the conditions of the American-held prisoners at Guantanamo Bay detainment camp and in 2006 began work on his piece to honour the victims of the Israeli-Lebanon war.



Crucial to understanding Tanavoli's achievements is the realization that he has explored, analyzed and absorbed the rich visual, literary and craftsmanly traditions of Iran. It is virtually impossible to separate his work as an artist from his passionate engagement as a researcher, teacher, collector and author. These complex relationships are perhaps most richly and most succinctly represented by the artist's life-long preoccupation with the lock. Dismantling and repairing locks was a favourite pastime from early childhood, and that has no doubt offered important "sculptural" lessons about formal interrelationships, including those of positve and negative space.



Parviz Tanavoli also collects Persian locks and has written a book about them. Persian padlocks are among the oldest in the world. They come in many shapes from pots and bowls to birds and animals. Some are opened by keys, some by combinations, some need several people to open them.


Watch the Video:


The Beauty of Nothing: Bronze sculptures
By: Parviz Tanavoli


"I cannot say what it was the impelled me to create this piece -- whether I was anxious about having reached a point of nothingness and was trying to ward off the tendency, or whether I wanted to succumb to it and bring it to realization as a creative source.



The artistic environment of the time, the school whose methods and pedagogy I could not believe in, the thinkers and artists who daily trumpeted some new artistic phenomenon from the West, and the aristocrats who proudly bought their second-hand merchandise, provoked in me a reaction of protest: heech was the voice of protest...



My nothingness, however, was not tinged with the cynicism of Western artists. Mine was the nothingness of hope and friendship, a nothingness that did not seek to negate. In my mind, it was not life that amounted to nothing, but rather nothing which brimmed with life itself." 


*Photo Credit:, Wikipedia, Etood.comISNA, Tehran Times, Iran Daily, Fararu

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