Sohrab Sepehri (Iran, 1928-1980) Untitled (from the abstract series)
Lot 39*
Sohrab Sepehri
(Iran, 1928-1980)
Untitled (from the abstract series)
Sold for £80,000 (US$ 106,932) inc. premium

Lot Details
Sohrab Sepehri (Iran, 1928-1980)
Untitled (from the abstract series)
oil on canvas
executed circa 1959-63
83 x 121cm (32 11/16 x 47 5/8in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    The Artist's estate

    "Lull me to sleep beneath a branch
    far from the nocturnal grinding of metals
    and wake me only if someone comes
    who can unearth the ore of daylight.
    Like jasmine emerging from behind your hands
    I will wake up. Only then..."
    Sohrab Sepehri, The Way to the Orchard

    In its grace, naturalism, and sophistication, the present painting is a work utterly faithful to the tenets of Sepehri's oeuvre; demonstrating an almost perfect confluence of Sepehri's strong representational impulse propelled by his love of the vernacular of Kashan and the more opaque abstraction inherited from the Eastern painting traditions he was so fluently versed in.

    Poet, artist and intellectual, Sepehri's mild manner and withdrawn persona belied the richness of expression manifest in his works. Enraptured by nature, Sepehri had a deep and profound attachment to the topography of his native Kashan, the "oasis city" where trees and vegetation sprung amidst the arid desert. The genesis of all of Sepehri's work was firmly rooted in this landscape, and whilst he is sometimes miscategorised as an artist solely pre-occupied with nature, the fullness of Sepehri's veneration of nature finds as potent a fruition in his representation of the dwellings that inhabit it.

    Sepehri had a firm belief in the inherent grace and nobility of the nature he so admired. Inspired by Eastern traditions, with which he had direct contact during travels in India and Japan, Sepehri came to see the purity of the natural world as an antidote to the corruption of the human condition. Thus, when depicting human and architectural subject matters, Sepehri carried the tonal, textural and botanical qualities of nature into his compositions.

    This is a testament to the harmonious symbiosis between nature and civilization in the rural context; buildings composed of local materials in a vernacular architectural language are thoroughly embedded with their landscape, they do not dominate or seek to conquer and subjugate in the manner of the dehumanizing urban sprawl Sepehri so dreaded when he exclaimed his "fear of cities where the black earth is pasture to cranes".

    Stylistically, the present work is a scintillating example of the very palpable sense of tension between naturalism and abstraction manifest in Sepehri's work. Sepehri was conceptually engaged by the universality of Zen painting, its advocacy of tonal minimalism, and its shedding of excess and detail in favour of exploring true meaning through a process of efficient meditative brushstrokes, however this was heavily tempered by his desire not to forsake the identity of his surroundings, ultimately, his attachment and love for his native home would never grant abstraction a total victory, and it is in this tension, that artistic sincerity is most deeply revealed.

    After enrolling at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1957, Sepehri went on to travel in Italy, throughout Africa and India before taking up a print making apprenticeship in Tokyo in 1960. During this period, the artist was exposed to Japanese philosophy, material culture and poetry that greatly influenced his future practice in both the visual arts and literature. After battling leukaemia, Sohrab Sepehri passed away in 1980 at the age of 52, remembered as both an exceptional painter and renowned poet.
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