Parviz Tanavoli is considered as one of the pioneers of the Saqqa-khaneh school, a neo-traditionalist movement that emerged in the 1960s which counted among its proponents a number of leading Iranian modern artists, including Charles Hossein Zenderoudi and Faramarz Pilaram.
Much of Tanavoli's inspiration derives from Persian culture crystallized in myths and legends, epic poems, carpets and rugs, bas-reliefs of Persepolis, and ancient iron and bronze pieces. He succeeded in creating a distinctly Iranian visual language which maintained its relevance in modern times. His works often demonstrate an interplay between philosophy and playfulness, between intense seriousness and occasional absurdity.
Tanavoli often relates his sculptures to poetry, and works mainly in cast bronze.
Lyric Persian Poetry features some general characteristics that help to explain the essential qualities of Tanavoli's sculptures. One underlying aspect is the idea of concealment and revelation at the same time which emerges not only in poetry, but also in other dimensions of Persian culture, most notably in architecture. By creating his sculptures and thus disclosing his inner world, Tanavoli reveals his emotion and ideas, and at the same time hides these revelations behind the veil of abstraction. In a wider scope, the Islamic practice of abstraction seems to stand for the concept of veiling and concealing. What makes the abstract, veiled art object still accessible to the viewer is the fact that it offers glimpses into its emotions by its mere presence, just like a poem begging the viewer to seek for emotion behind abstract words.
The main themes in his repertoire are Poets, Prophets, Lovers, animals including Lions, and objects like Locks, Cages, and most notably the Walls, which includes his largest and most impressive pieces.
A monumental series of bronzes, the Walls of Iran, represents the sculptor's greatest and most mature achievement. The surfaces of these walls are modelled after Egyptian or Sumerian reliefs, which were articulated with intricate inscriptions or pictograms.
Even his miniature pieces have often had the capacity to suggest monumental scale, however, the bronze Walls of Iran Tanavoli are, quite literally, monuments. Walls, universal structures with inherently plastic values, are richly ornamented with scripts that echoes the elaborate calligraphy of the mosque, but here, on closer examination, it is revealed to be a universal script, reminiscent of Cunieform, Armenian, Aramaic and Persian. Thus the artist's own mystic sense transforms his literal source into messages of universal resonance.
A particularly refined and simplified of the Wall series, the present work, The Wall and the Script, alludes to minimalist works by Tanavoli's American contemporaries, and is covered by a calligraphic surface on a mural scale. Walls, naturally barriers and deterrents, become in the hands of Parviz Tanavoli the symbols of evolution and refinement.
Works from The Wall series can be found in several important collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Vienna; the Ludwig Museum, Aachen, Germany; The Grey Art Gallery, New York University, the City of Isfahan, and the City of Tehran
Parviz Tanavoli was the representative of Iran at the 29th Venice Biennale in 1958.