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Mohammed Ehsai (Iranian, b. 1939)
Lots are subject to 5% import Duty on the importat… Read more Property from a Private Collection, San Francisco
Mohammed Ehsai (Iranian, b. 1939)


Mohammed Ehsai (Iranian, b. 1939)
signed and dated in Farsi (lower left); signed in Farsi (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
19 5/8 x 47¼in. (50 x 120cm.)
Painted in 1980
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in the early 1980s.
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Lot Essay

One of the leading figures of Modern and Contemporary art in Iran, Mohammed Ehsai has used his knowledge of graphic arts and architecture to create a unique style of calligraphy. Approaching calligraphy from a religious background, Ehsai first mastered formal calligraphy before exploring the flowing rhythms of the Naskh, a cursive script that flourished in the late eighteenth-century and the
Shekasteh, a modernist reappropriation of the letter. By combining his expertise with his knowledge of Modern art, he became a pioneer of the Naqqashikhatt (calligraphic painting) in the late 1960s and drew inspiration from the Saqqakhaneh movement, but moved away from the traditional aesthetics, while remaining rooted in sacrality and spirituality. Ehsai thus achieved an aesthetic synthesis between traditional calligraphy and the graphics of letters and transformed the script into his own style of calligraphy, which seeks to transmute into new forms of abstraction.

The present work, an outstanding and rare example from 1980, depicts a composition with intertwined and barely decipherable letters in which each long and delicate brushstroke, like a column, creates balance and harmony. With its hues of emerald green dispersed against a dark textured background and the lyrical curvature of each letter, the artist recreates a mystical trancelike composition, perpetuated by a deep vibrancy of movement and creates a visual play that renders each of the letters devoid of their original meaning.
As is characteristic of the artist's oeuvre, the monochromatic colour palette in the present work suggests a dualistic universe between what is legible and illegible, what is real and what is not and the dualism between the earthly and the spiritual. This striking visual contrast imparts the work with a high sense of alluring monumentalism.
This exceptional example from the artist's Calligraphy Paintings, of which a sister piece is held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Tehran, transports the viewer to a spiritual appreciation of a traditional art form revisited in a Modern style and creates a state of unique transcendence and serenity. A larger comparable work, painted in the late 2000s, achieved the record for the artist in April 2008 at Christie's in Dubai, selling for over $1 million. Christie's is proud to offer the present work, a unique and refined early composition painted in 1980 that is undeniably a collector's piece.

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