Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, b. 1924)
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Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, b. 1924)

Drawing In Glass No. 3

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, b. 1924)
Drawing In Glass No. 3
signed, inscribed and dated in Farsi, signed, inscribed and dated 'MONIR SHAHROUDY-FARMANFARMAIAN TEHRAN-IRAN 2010' (on the reverse)
mirror mosaic and plaster on wood
70 7/8 x 43 3/8 in. (180 x 110cm.)
Executed in 2009
The Third Line Gallery, Dubai.
Private Collector, UAE.
H. Ulrich Obrist & K. Marta (eds.), Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Cosmic Geometry, Bologna 2011 (illustrated in colour, p. 197).
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Michael Jeha
Michael Jeha

Lot Essay

‘The three of us sat for hours in a high domed hall that was covered entirely in a mosaic of tiny mirrors cut into hexagons, squares and triangles...The very space seemed on fire, the lamps blazing in hundreds of thousands of reflections. I imagined myself standing inside a many-faceted diamond and looking out at the sun.’ (The artist quoted in M. Farmanfarmaian & Z. Houshmand, A Mirror Garden: A Memoir, New York 2007).

The present stunning work, entitled Drawing in Glass No. 3, is a shimmering installation that evokes a kaleidoscope of reflecting and refracting intertwined and overlapping squares and triangles. Impressive in its sheer size, it appears like a multi-faceted diamond that epitomises the artist’s distinctive approach to geometric abstraction and her fascination with the concepts of repetition and progression, merged with the aesthetic traditions of Islamic architecture and cultural heritage as well as American Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. The remarkable animate quality of the work is captivating and almost hypnotising, reminiscent of the kinetic work practices of artists such as Heinz Mack, Pol Bury and Marina Apollonio, and thus becomes about incorporating the spectator – the viewer– into the idea of the work itself.

To create her three-dimensional panels, Farmanfarmaian worked closely with local craftsmen who helped her draft her initial designs. The mirror pieces, most of which were manufactured and imported from Belgium, were cut to fit the required shape and geometrical patterns and she recreated - adding to her works a modern twist - mirror mosaics that were reminiscent of the aristocratic homes of 17th and 18th century Iran.

With a career that spans over 70 years and internationally celebrated for her exploration of the traditional art of mirror-mosaic and reverse-glass painting, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is at the forefront of Modern and Contemporary Iranian art. Undeniably pop, her works are a reflection of her own identity. That beautiful Persian girl as John Cage would call her, Farmanfarmaian is known and loved by many for her honesty, her life of glamour and hard work.

The artist’s life and career are to be admired, both linked to her personal story as an Iranian who lived abroad for many years, but whose attachment to her homeland Iran has never faded throughout the years. In 1944, amidst the Second World War, Farmanfarmaian decided to move to Paris to discover the art scene that she had been acquainted to, but the war and the German occupation made it impossible. Via Mumbai, Farmanfarmaian boarded an American battleship to California and travelled to New York in 1945, where she settled for more than a decade. When in New York, living in the Studio 54 era, Farmanfarmaian befriended artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Joan Mitchell. She also met Andy Warhol, then a young commercial illustrator in charge of the store’s window displays, and acquired from him a few of his coloured illustrations of shoes in exchange of a mirror ball that he famously kept on his desk in his Maddison Avenue home, until his death.

In 1957, Farmanfarmaian moved back to her homeland Iran. There she painted flowers and produced monotypes, but consequently travelled around the country to rediscover traditional handicrafts and folk art, coffeehouse paintings that she would collect hand-painted ceilings and panels of the Safavid era. Most importantly in 1966 in Shiraz, she was awed by the 14th century Shah Cheragh shrine adorned with endless mirror mosaics, a discovery that left an lasting impression on her and influenced her artistic production for the rest of her life.

With this in mind, the 1960s and 1970s saw Farmanfarmaian’s career take a new turn. Her distinctive aesthetic language was rooted in a strong passion for her Iranian heritage. Resonating of traditional art, her works are yet undeniably modern and avant-gardist. Her influences ranged from Islamic geometric and architectural patterns to science and philosophy. She was fascinated by the Sufi cosmology and the symbolism in geometry and soon began to incorporate various shapes and colours - circles, triangles, squares, polygons - in her works, each of these shapes a metaphor for metaphysical values and ideas. As she experimented with geometry, she skillfully combined mirror, reverse-glass painting and in some cases stainless steel. As a result, her works, refracting and reflecting light, revealed a kinetic facet. Through her works, her vision of the surrounding world thus catapulted both the viewer and herself into a kaleidoscopic experience that was ultimately intangible.

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