bronze, signed 'Parviz, 06' on base, 96 x 54 x 24 cm.
"At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen. What marvellous route did you take from this world? Beating your wings and feathers, you broke free from this cage ." - Jalal al-Din Rumi (Jonathan Star, Rumi, Los Angeles, 1997).
"My goal with architecture was not to reduce it or even to use its combination of elements or proportions, but rather to home in on its essence, which I hoped to synthesize with the essence of poetry to create something genuinely new" - Parviz Tanavoli (David Galloway, Ed., Parviz Tanavoli: Sculptor, Writer, Collector, Tehran, 2000).
Mysticism, poetry, truth, love, oneness with the divine; these are the spiritual currents which run through every fibre of Parviz Tanavolis work. An artist and sculptor central to the neo-traditionalist Saqqa-Khaneh movement in Iran, Tanavoli, like others of his milieu, has chosen the rich and vibrant spiritual aesthetic of Persian culture as the subject matter of his art.
Tanavoli's inspiration is the religious imagery of the Iranian urban landscape, which is filled with emamzadehs (religious shrines) and saqqa-khaneh (drinking fountains serving as talismanic altars) all of which serve as popular channels of religious expression. Tanavoli combines this aesthetic with the architectural style of pre-Islamic Iran, with his flat engraved surface resembling ancient Achaemenid cuneiform rock reliefs. In addition to this, Tanavoli's work makes heavy use of the common literary metaphors of traditional Persian poetry. Characterised almost entirely by mystical Sufi poems and prose, Persian literary tradition is richly endowed with spiritual metaphors, often constructed as commonly recurring ideal types, such as the lover, the beloved, the bird, the cupbearer, the drunkard and the sage; characters in a world of lost souls immersed in sensual desire, deprived of the spiritual ecstasy of divine revelation, the secrets of which only the mystic poet, himself a veritable saint and heavenly medium, can relate.
Any comprehension of Tanavoli must therefore account for these cultural phenomena and their subsequent relations to the various aesthetic elements of his work. The imposing façade of the sculpture resembles both a grave stele and ancient Persian rock reliefs, it represents the poet's mode of communication and its immortalisation as text. Yet trapped within the structure is an abstract bird-form; the bird, a symbol of art and creativity (due to its vocal capabilities), represents the poetic impulse which lies at the heart of every writer. Its entrapment is a testament to the hermeneutic tradition of Sufi interpretation; where the inner meaning of a text is concealed to the layman, and can be apprehended only through intense spiritual reflection. Ultimately, the bird signifies hidden truth, a truth which seeks solace in the safe-haven of poetic creativity.
Many academics refer to the history of Iran as a legacy of 'Mystics, Monarchs and Messiahs', it is precisely the impact of these grand historical forces which underpin Tanavoli's oeuvre. In this monumental, unique and important sculpture, Tanavoli recalls not only Persia's glorious visual legacy, but also its philosophical underpinnings, all related through an overall aesthetic which is as stunning as it is profound.