Celebrated for his unique approach to calligraphy, Mohammed Ehsai is an artist whose visual language not only mirrors Iran’s rich history but also sheds light onto a time of great artistic production in the country. Inspired by calligraphy and through intricate patterning, the artist formulates a visual language which nods to contemporary attitudes while simultaneously acknowledging the historical symbols and scripts from Islamic art. Using these monumental canvases as a vehicle for his rich visual iconography, the artist constructs an instantly recognisable style. Favouring bold inclusions of colour and ornamental patterning, Ehsai’s paintings culminate to produce a fascinating body of work.
In the present work from the Eshgh (Love) series, Ehsai’s approach to painting gives precedence to form. While the motifs he creates may have been adapted from Farsi scripts, through symmetry and patterning, the words and letters lose their formal qualities and in turn take on a purely aesthetic value that transcend yet in some ways exemplify the notion of love. Fusing together different letters that repeatedly make up the word Eshgh in order to compose one central motif, the artist uses bold, confident lines to formulate these shapes. Each individual construction relies on repetition and meticulous manipulation in order to compose the central character of the canvas. Drawing inspiration from Farsi lettering, including the Naskh and Thuluth, the artist strongly believes in the pervasive quality of this calligraphic imagery. On a monumental scale, this dramatic reappropriation however, does not take away from the power of their imagery, rather it infuses the artist’s visual language with a rigour of bold expression and unparalleled dynamism. These intricately patterned forms seek inspiration from the swirls and curls of calligraphy, intricately wound and rhythmically beautiful. Taking up almost the entirety of the canvas, the artist confronts his viewers with the power of visual imagery. In the present work, the central design dominates the entirety of the picture plane. While its centre remains the densest, and intricately coiled, the four corners present broader, more swirling loops.
Ehsai’s powerful use of colour is a significant feature of his work, and is not limited to its pictorial perfection or aesthetic qualities. Rich in symbolism, the bold colours of gold and red produce a striking contrast that adds to the monumental quality of the canvas. Drawn from ancient Qur’anic scriptures, the artist's key inspiration derives from religious texts and Islamic calligraphic styles that are indicative of a supreme order derived from centuries of utopian idealism within religion of which these colours point to. Similarly, the use of red and gold are reminiscent of the pomegranate, a commonly used and auspicious fruit in Iran offering signs of fertility, wealth and luck, turning this canvas into a talisman of good fortune. The juxtaposition of these two colours highlight the division between the earthly and the spiritual. Highlighted by the use of gold leaf to fill the entire background of the picture plane, it works to add a sense of dimensionality to the canvas that visually confronts the viewer.