The Iranian-born artist Charles Hossein Zenderoudi was a founder of the Saqqa-khaneh school in the early 1960s, considered the most influential art movement to have emerged from Iran in the twentieth century. Drawing on centuries of vibrant and rich cultural traditions Zenderoudi, along with the other well-known artists including Faramaz Pilaram and Parviz Tanavoli, embraced a neo-traditionalist style that would launch him into the international arena. In 1970, he was voted by Connaissance des Arts as one of ten most famous living artists along with the likes of Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. Saqqa-khaneh took its name from a type of architectural structure that punctuates the Iranian landscape, housing public drinking fountains, decorated with traditional folk-art motifs. Much like today's modern day billboards, with walls covered with a random confluence of popular posters and folk imagery, these structures also served a functional purpose offering shelter and protection from the sweltering rays of the sun, a place of generosity and hospitality for all. It was during the 1950s that the artist was first affected by these structures. Zenderoudi was moved by the bright colours covering the walls and the spontaneous and random meaning resulting from the haphazard assembly imagery that still somehow maintained its mass appeal.
In 1960, Zenderoudi left Tehran for Paris; however his memories of his homeland remained poignant and would go on to form the foundation from which he continues to draw his inspiration today. Embracing what is perhaps the most important and well established art form in Iran and the Islamic world, Zenderoudi employs calligraphy to construct vibrant, multi-layered and complex compositions. Unlike traditional craftsmen, he takes the Farsi word and the letter, deconstructs and strips the words down to repetitive shapes and structures emphasizing form over meaning.
By the end of 1970s Zenderoudi's paintings demonstrate a new interest in the aesthetics of monumentality, using a technique which combined oil and acrylic within the same painting to provide further contrast and texture further. Painted in 1979, the present work is a particularly striking example, and prefigures much of his work during the 1980s. Kharjee Spirit is emblematic of Zenderoudi's works from this period with their monumental compositions and large sweeping abstracted letters. The artist embraces exuberant and vibrant colours to illustrate a symphony of form using gestural and painterly strokes that bear his process fully exposing his under drawings. Lyrical in composition, harjee Spirit teases the viewer and draws him in closer. Fragments and hints of words emerge here and there, but no rhyme, reason or coherent meaning can be found. He simultaneously pays homage to his roots while at the same time breathes new life into this traditional art form creating an abstract body of work global in its appeal. "Ever since I completed the Ecole des Beaux Arts of Tehran in 1957, I wanted to take advantage of the richness of Eastern art and mix it with Western Art to produce a synthesis in works that would be avant-garde" (Zenderoudi, quoted in L.A. Lawrence, "Letter, Word, Art", in Saudi Aramco World, March/April.