Massoud Arabshahi explores various aspects of his Iranian heritage, especially the pre-Islamic period and Zoroastrian symbols.
The Faravahar or Farohar is perhaps the best-known symbol of Zoroastrianism. It is the winged disc, representing a guardian angel, but also related to the "winged sun" of Egyptian and Babylonian mythology. It is present in Achaeminid bas-reliefs, most notably with a human form above the wings. This was an innovation during the time of Darius I, as prior to that the symbol did not have a human form.
Arabshahi's art is loaded with symbols such as the lotus, wheel, the shining sun, the tree of life, and pseudo-cuneiform with geometrical symbols such as circles, squares, curves, and spirals. The result is a confluence between past and present and future, where Arabshahi's work juxtaposes the ancient and the futuristic. For over thirty years his work has encompassed large-scale sculpture, relief architecture and murals, in a wide array of techniques. His creativity and perception maintain the simple geometric shapes of antiquity, infusing them with elaborate delineation and texturing, conveying a sense of the finite and producing an aesthetically balanced whole.
Geometric shapes carry meaning in Arabshahi's oeuvre. The circle is the symbol of the universe, wholeness, and original perfection. In Islamic art the circle represents the vaulted sky and divine light; the square manifests the earth and perfect stability. A square inside a circle or a circle inside a square represents a transformation of the spherical form of the sky on a rectangular Earth or vice versa. The circle mainly delineates the whole nature and square shapes indicate recognition of this wholeness in the consciousness. The cross has been a universal symbol ever since antiquity. It denotes the centre of the world; a point where the earth and heaven meet; a cosmic axis. The cross also represents an archetype of man capable of expanding infinitely and harmoniously in both horizontal and vertical planes. In Islam it signifies the union of all states of being, sublime identity and horizontal and vertical expansion. The vertical line is the celestial, spiritual, subjective, positive and active aspects, whereas the horizontal line demonstrates earthly, logical, passive and negative aspects. The spiral has long been utilized in arts: solar and lunar powers, universal revolution, the Sun's orbit, seasons, and rotation of the Earth and creative powers. Double spirals represented rhythms of nature. Application of these elements attaches a geometric sense to Arabshahi's works, and also brings his art closer to modernism.
Massoud Arabshahi was the Winner of the First Prize at The Monaco International Exhibition in 1973. He was also award wining artist of the Tehran biennale in 1963. Arabshahi has designed and executed numerous reliefs in Tehran and California.