For the past decades, Parviz Tanavoli has been a highly influential and significant figure in the Middle Eastern art world. In the 1960s, along with other Iranian artists, he created the Saqqakhaneh neo-traditional movement, intending to bring together the ancient decorative elements from the cultural heritage of Iran with Persian calligraphy and poetry. Parviz Tanavoli is not only a sculptor, or a "wall-maker" as he prefers to be called, but also a painter, a poet, an avid collector and during the reign of the Shah, a cultural advisor to the Queen of Iran, Farah Pahlavi.
During his successful career, Tanavoli explored various iconographies and Lovers, along with Prophets, Walls, Heech and Poets are among the main series of his sculptures. Yet, the Lovers are perhaps one of the most prestigious and most sought after series as they are exceedingly rare in the market, most of them being held in important private collections around the world.
According to the artist, sculpture is poetry in itself and although he has worked with various materials, bronze would be the most appropriate of all. The present work in fact is in bronze and undoubtedly, it is the finest example of this series to be ever offered at auction.
Lovers is more than just a mere assemblage of cubes and cylinders. The embellished surface of the lower part of the work evokes Tanavoli's walls, covered with the intentionally semi-illegible old Persian cuneiform script, hence deeply influenced by the pre-Islamic architecture of Persepolis. However, on the top, softer lines and rounded volumes adorn the simple geometric axis with the familiar motifs of Islamic architecture and popular artifacts. Tanavoli, through Lovers, therefore combines two eras of his homeland's architectural history.
However, beyond its structural and faceless appearance, this work depicts a complementary couple. With shapes and volumes, the artist has achieved a bodily union between the man and the woman. They appear hand in hand and seem to hold in themselves something that does not meet the eye, behind the latticework grilles. Indeed, the holes and lattices incite the viewer to question what is held behind the closed space whilst they let the light and the air inside, just like walls in traditional houses or mosques of Islamic architecture. These opening structures are also reminiscent of the surface of the shrines and the sacred fountains, known as the saqqakhanehs, thus adding to the sculpture a sense of sanctity and of ritualistic aspiration. Both concealing and revealing, the simple geometric forms appear as a poem and the viewer is encouraged to seek for the Truth behind abstraction.
Lovers is a fine example of Parviz Tanavoli's "poetry in bronze" and it is undeniably a collector's piece.