Known to have one of the most fascinating oeuvres of any Middle Eastern artist, Farhad Moshiri’s work is founded on the principles of deeply personal expression through the dichotomy of tradition and modernity. Consistently tackling Iran’s distinguished history with modern day vulgarity, humour and materiality that is both complimentary yet contradictory, his works are always rich in symbolism and powerful imagery. The present work, part of his renowned Bowl and Jar series, sheds light on the early years of the artist’s painterly career.
The bowl as a motif itself has a significant historical meaning. Having immersed himself in his Iranian heritage after moving back to Iran in 1991, Moshiri frequented Tehran’s antique district in search of ceramic objects such as vessels, jars, bowls and plates for which he felt an unexplained fascination. The history of these ceramics stem far further than merely its utilitarian uses, ceramics are deeply rooted in Iran’s cultural history. From the fragmentary remains at Susa, almost 6000 years ago, to Sassanian vessels pre-dating Islam, to the technically advanced products of 13th century Seljuk potters and finally the 17th century Safavids, no other country in the area can claim such a close association to these ceramic objects as Iran. By monumentalising the simplicity of these objects and by making them the focal point of each canvas, the artist imbues them with a sense of grandeur. Through a powerful confidence in his practice, a deep understanding of his heritage as well as a contemporary attitude, this present series of works amalgamates numerous sources of inspiration. ‘The thought of painting probably the first object ever made by man amused me. Here I was painting simple bowls and jars from millions of years ago while other artists were using cutting edge technology to produce work. It felt like I was going in the wrong direction and somehow it felt good.’ (Farhad Moshiri in conversation with Dr. M. Ekhtiar, in D. Nasser-Khadivi, F. Rahim Ismail (eds.), Farhad Moshiri, vol.1, Milan 2016, p. 49).
Each bowl within this series is unique in shape, colour, text and size. However, what remains consistent throughout is the unusual technique employed by the artist. In the present work entitled Fire Bowl, placed against a white background, the enormously sized canvas with the earthy brown bowl as its protagonist confronts the viewer with its vast presence. In the present work, the artist borrows the bowl’s colour from Iran’s desert earth and villages. Through the technique of folding and crushing the canvas in order to create flakes and cracks throughout the paint, the artist attempts to mimic craquelure - the intricate and delicately cracked surface of a varnish or paint. Incorporating gold leaf into the pigment, the artist alludes to the materialistic excess that the artist feels has become apparent in today’s consumerist society while similarly pointing to the cultural abundance of the country’s great history.