Farah Ossouli is an Iranian artist currently living in Tehran. She first started painting almost 42 years ago. At the age of 15, Farah attended art school in Iran where she first became acquainted with Western art. During this time, Farah also began learning traditional Persian miniature painting techniques. Hailing from an artistic family, Farah painted throughout her childhood. Her aunt, brother, and sister are all prominent artists. At university, Farah studied graphic design. Upon graduating, Farah decided to pursue painting professionally. Throughout Farah’s university days however, there were teetering tension in Iran.
Not too long after Farah graduated, Iran went through a revolution. It became very difficult to continue as an artist during this tumultuous period. The country became very ideological. Straight after the revolution, there was no support from the government, and many galleries and museums closed down. The Persian art scene suffered for 10 years, with little activity through that period. The art scene has been making a come back over the past few years, however.
Iran’s rich literary and cultural heritage has inspired Farah’s work. Specifically, Persian miniatures greatly inspired her work. The stories that are portrayed in the minarets portray love, violence, friendship, and family. Just as each minaret tells many stories, so does each of Farah’s works. In one work for example, both day and night are represented. In another work, both heaven and hell are portrayed on the same canvas. Farah brings it all together, “life is full of both,” she states. Farah likes to bring these miniatures into the modern day, and she enjoys mixing the traditional with the new. Iranian poems have also greatly inspired Farah’s work. She places great importance in these poems since they are timeless. Love, family, honor, as well as many other themes and issues of today’s world are timeless. The same issues portrayed in these hundreds of years old poems, are still significant in society today. Farah admires the timelessness of these poems, which demonstrate that human nature never changes.
Living in Iran is the fuel for Farah’s creation and imagination. Living in Tehran allows Farah to know what is happening in her homeland, and see how it is changing. Visiting all parts of Iran, as well as strolling Tehran’s bustling streets, and interacting with its people has been a constant inspiration for Farah’s work. I ask Farah why Iranian art is so rich and creative. She explains that the period after the Mogul invasion Iran was full of harmony and beauty. She states that the Mongols destroyed her country, and after the destruction there was a cultural renaissance.
Iranian art is great because of its long tradition. Throughout history, Iranian society has always been very mixed. In the past, the region currently known as Iran controlled many parts of Asia and the Middle East, and incorporated many religions and cultures into its realm. All these cultures rubbed off on each other, with each culture interacting and exchanging ideas with one another. Historically Iran has had significant contact with the outside world, and therefore many ideas have flowed in as well as out of the region. Iran has for long also been a melting pot of traditions and customs, and this has enabled an extremely rich cultural and artistic heritage to develop.
Farah’s work contains many themes, however her key theme is duality. Farah states that even before Islam, there was always conflict between good and evil, between right and wrong. Farah states that behind each one of her works is a story. Smiling, she says, “Beauty is just the face of the work, but behind the façade, there is an idea, and I try to give my opinion through the work.” Farah is also influenced by Persian architecture, which reflects the character of the country. She gives an example, “In Iran you see an old house with an old, damaged wall surrounding it, however if you go inside of those walls you see a beautiful garden, like paradise. There is this intense juxtaposition between the old wall and the beautiful garden.” She says that this is also like a person who is extremely humble, but on the inside, he is very knowledgeable and loving.
Farah’s beautiful works are unbelievably detailed. Her brush strokes are so thin and delicate that it is impossible not to stare at her work in awe. Her themes of love, violence, and duality are issues that mankind face today, just as they had in the times of the Persian miniatures. Farah’s work alludes to a period of cultural renaissance in Iran that reminds us of the country’s rich heritage. Farah’s work has been sold at Christie’s and she is one of the few Middle Eastern artists to have one of her pieces featured on the Met Museum’s website. She is a great Middle Eastern artist, who uses the region’s history, culture, and literature to produce beautiful pieces of art.
I realized quite early on in my childhood that dolls were not capable of embodying all the tails and personalities I lovingly nurtured in my active imagination.
So I started creating my own characters out of paper and paint, specific to each one of my fantastic stories. I drew them, painted them, cut them out of cardboard, and played with them for hours and days.
After a while, I needed new stories, with new actors. The old cut outs were all thrown away along with the old sagas, only to be replaced by totally new ones. I would start all over again, recreating, redrawing, and repainting bran new characters, in accordance to my new scenarios.
My fondness and fascination for literature and painting grew daily. I felt that these two interests were pulling me in two separate directions.
I was spell bound by the fascinating game of narration mixed with images.
My inner paradise came to a completion when I was capable of uniting these two interests of mine in my work, as a painter, just as I had done so as a child.
The sweet game initiated so joyfully and innocently in my early years continues to live on in me today, expressing itself through my paintings.
I enjoy expressing my personal understanding and interpretation of life and existence through the symbolic characters and stories which I use in my works.
Self Portraits:Selfportraits from “Ars Poetica” ‘s Series 9 pieces , 30×30 cm – each Acrylics on Canvas 2010
There are different situations of a woman, shown all together, surrounded by weapons ,guns, war planes, knives, and rockets. Forugh Farrokhzad’s poems are written all around the pieces, which help to reveal their situation. Wounded birds, a river with the color of blood, and other elements show their conditions; my aim is to show this contrast that what we see at first sight is not the reality. As an example, in one of the works, a woman is covering her mouth with her own hands, while the poem around the pieces says : I want to say no, no, no… and around that poem we see a border filled with guns; so something is avoiding her from saying “No”
Or in another image we see a woman in a seductive position,but if one gets more precise on looking at it ,he sees that she’s beheaded .The contrast happening in my surroundings , is a motivation for my works .
Suffering:Ars Poetica’s series 90×90 cm Acrylics on Canvas
There’s a painter woman with her two children, shown in the middle of the piece. She kept her children safe through her maternal love and creativity. The two birds are the symbols of the children. Outside their closed space, there are wounded birds flying; and nests without mothers taking care of them. The mother of nature was not able to take care of these wounded birds. There seem to be beautiful ornaments on the margins, but once we get close we see weapons, knives, guns, and war planes. There’s also a part of the great poet ” Ferdowsi ” with this concept: I suffered too much in these 30 years, (and the word “suffering” is repeated on the borders. As the rest of the ” Ars Poetica” ‘ s series, this piece is pointing the hard situation of the contrasts and a woman’s life as a female, mother and artist in this world and particularly in middle east.
Anticipation:Gouache on Cardboard Two pieces,65x50cm each
In this two piece painting the two lovers are parted. The man’s Globet is waiting to be filled by the woman’s wine. The woman shines as the moon, and looks like an Angel.
And Someone Comes:From the collection “Commemorations” Homage to Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Roger Freeing Angelica
Inspired by Ingres’s painting, this work portrays a chained woman amid rocks who is enslaved by the weft and warp of her red turban, helplessly and innocently awaiting a savior to save her from the dragon. The fire from dragon’s mouth can burn her any moment. A rider on a winged horse with a golden spear in his hand arrives to save her. Beyond this confinement, there is a beautiful landscape: shining stars, a flowing river, a cloudy sky about to cry.
Eroticism in Ingres’s painting is prevalent in this painting too. Unlike the stark naked woman in Ingres’s work, this woman here is fully covered. However, masculine presence of the dragon and golden flames on a sensual red background, indicate a desire to deflower the woman. On the other hand, chivalric attack of the rider on the dragon demonstrates the encounter of two masculine forces, one fighting to possess the woman’s body and the other to capture her heart and soul. Time is absent and the painting portrays an eternal story.
Vincent, Reza, and Me:67×55 Gouache on Cardboard 2010 From Van Gogh’s ear collections
This piece is adopted from Reza Abbasi’s painting which shows a beautiful woman is using kohl for her eye and looking at herself in the mirror. On the cushion which she’s leaning on, is an image of a man who’s is giving her a look fool of love, this is while he’s filling his bowl with wine.
But in this piece the beautiful woman in Reza abbasi’s painting has turned to a painter who is blinding her eye with a knife, even her image in the mirror is threatened by this scene, so her eyes are closed.
Her knife looks like her painting brushes, just like the clouds in her painting which look like the clouds in van gogh’s paintings.
It’s said that in the past when a miniaturist refused to draw something following the king’s order, the king would order to make him blind, or he would make his self blind.
This subject is finely revealed in Orhan Pumak’s book called ” My name is Red “.
Van Gogh, with his ear cut, is looking at her with a feeling of surprise or maybe sympathy.
The surrounding gilding and decorations are guns which are decorated by flowers and leaves, the gun which Van Gogh killed his self with it.
All of the used motives are drawn and decorated with inspiration of guns, knives and bullets covered with blood.
Various poems of Forugh Farrokhzad are written and repeated in all sides of the painting, such as:
I couldn’t, I couldn’t anymore
That spring and that green delusion
I cried the whole day in the mirror
which pick, which climax
All of the catastrophes which are revealed with beautiful decorations in this piece, show the contrast of our souls ,insides and our surroundings.
This piece is a talk between Van gogh, Reza Abbasi and me as a femaile Iranian artist.
In the Mirror of Love:
In this Work, the woman sees herself in the mirror of her love, in this moment that is a great moment in all of lovers lives, world comes to a harmony. An angel brings Sun from the day, another angel brings moon from the night. Also Nature helps this spiritual moment. However its too short. But it lasts eternal.
Being in Heaven, Being in Hell:
Put Your Gun Down:
In this piece two angels are angry at each other, aren’t facing each other, and are burning in the fire of this anger. The woman is giving water to a wounded bird, the man has a cage and a gun for the bird. So it’s obvious that they will never achieve a result together .
In a romantic and harmonic atmosphere a woman is offering an apple to her lover and is seducing him. The cost of this temptation and love is the woman’s wings burning and losing the chance to fly forever. In the image next to the former , a woman is sitting alone and looking at this romantic view with agony. She herself is burning in fire of jealousy; but she doesn’t know that the price of that love is losing freedom and flying. Each worthy treasure has a cost.
Love and Death:” Shahnameh” Series 110x 75 2007 Gouache on cardboard Participated in Bonhams Auction
Beautiful, daring Princess Tahmine suddenly found out that luck had knocked on her door and her unseen lover had been sleeping in her house. She went to Rostam’s bed in the dead of night, and they both lost the gamble of love overnight; a passionate love, a brief encounter, followed by continued departure. Blossoming bud is a symbol of the conception of Sohrab.
Tahmine is lying in Rostam’s arms yearning to have a child from him, without even knowing that the one who gives her the child will take it back.
This refers to a termination of matriarchy in which a son is searching for his father, because neither knows the other. The son gets killed by his father in a tough battle.
The work is divided into four sections, indicating four elements in nature. The images on the top and bottom of the painting depict the love between Tahmine and Rostam, and Sohrab lying in Rostam’s arms, portrays a mirror-like reflection. Tahmine is in a situation similar to that of Sohrab. In effect, she was devastated the night when she lovingly went to him, for she lost the child that intercourse gave them.
Satan and angel are watching the scene from either side of the painting, as if they are audience of a play.
Bloody sword of Satan indicates that evil is triumphant and angel has sadly surrendered.
Struggle between Ahoora Mazda and Satan, good and evil, and light and darkness, still continues. Whether goodness wins or loses, an evolution is the result of this struggle. The tree of wisdom will grow in the same soil that embraces Sohrab as a seed. Circumstances of a hero are often recounted in every struggle, but this painting describes untold sentiments of a heroine behind the scenes of a war.
This painting challenges the question of honeymoon at the start of a sweet life. Composition of the painting is inspired by traditional Persian painting as well as Iranian Kilim and Kaba. Divided forms of the pond and orchard within the plane of the painting indicates veiled geometry in Islamic art. Colors, position of figures, minute details, and motifs serve to depict a world full of kindness, joy, and hope.
Two lovers cuddled at the center of the painting are in a green surrounding which connotes a garden.
Their dreams, in the form of a nest, can be seen among the branches of a plane tree on top of the painting. Plane tree itself is a sacred and precious symbol in Iranian art.
In the background, an open window looks at a starry night.. There is festivity and drinking, and unaware of the future, the two lovers are looking at the two birds. The two birds are encaged in a golden cage looking back at each other.
Many stories have a happy ending when the two lovers marry each other. In real life, however, stories begin right from that moment. Which one will be the end of this sweet beginning
Birth of Venus:Participated in christies auction Birth Of Venus 75x 110 2007 Gouache on Cardboard
Venus, goddess of Love and Beauty, came into being from the foaming sea. Born out of chaos, Venus danced in the sea and upon reaching the seashore, saw plants grown under her feet. And she finally flew to the skies along with birds.
Inspired by Angelo Poliziano, poet of the Renaissance period, who himself was inspired by Homer’s poem about Venus, Sandro Botecelli painted the Birth of V enus in the style of antique sculptures in 1480. Venus, emerging from the sea, is standing in the center of the painting on an enormous seashell, covering her nude, supple and dream-like body with her long hair.
Her shell is pushed to the shore by the west wind of Zephyr, who is embracing Chloris, amid a shower of rose-colored flowers.
On the right, goddess of Law and Spring is approaching Venus with a purple cloak embroidered with red and white daisies – to cover her naked figure.
The Birth of V enus expresses great hopes of the Renaissance period for the rebirth of humanity.
Inspired by Botecelli’s Birth of V enus and old Persian painting, Farah Ossouli depicts contemporary Venus. Venus in her painting, fully dressed and covering part of her body with a scarf, is standing on a shell.
Astounded by the birth of Venus, Chloris and the west wind of Zephyr are standing by on the left and flowers are replaced by clouds.
On the right, a man is spreading a blanket (patterned with stars) over Venus, thus symbolizing darkness, concealment, secret, infinity, and disguise.
Geometric divisions of the painting illustrate primordial and perpetual sequence of day and night and continuity of life in various layers of time and space.
Cypresses represent youthful pride; buds symbolize spring and rejuvenation. The moon is illuminating the sky and the river denotes the passing life.
The sun is making appearance from behind the clouds and birds are on the wing in the upper part of the painting. According to mythology, Venus will eventually fly to the skies along with the birds.
Creation of Man:Gouache on cardboard 110×75 2007 Participated in Sotheby s Auction From the collection “Commemoration” Homage to Michael Angelo
This work is inspired by Michael Angelo’s famous fresco work, Creation of Man. The goddess (Izad Banou) and small fairies, who have surrounded her in this painting, initiate human life on earth. From an Iranian traditional standpoint, women are symbol of life, abundance, fertility, and wisdom, for they always give birth to man.
A majority of religions that have been practiced in Iran absorbed customs and concepts to compensate the great lack of essential mother figure – or a female element – in their sacred writings. Even Zoroaster took a compensatory measure with regard to the mix of angels. Cypress in this painting is a symbol of a proud future and everlasting youth of a man who is given a new life by a woman. Buds depict birth and his renewed conception.
Similar to earth, woman is a symbol of blessings and acceptance. Whilst she gives life to man, she embraces him again when he is no longer alive. The painting refers to the age of goddesses and archetypes of the past. They still can be found all across the world giving birth to men. The clouds surrounding the goddess symbolize fertility. In its composition, the painting shows night time with stars and day time with the sun. There are also birds transmitting different messages. And creation still continues …
(Pictures and Picture info kindly provided by Farah Ossouli)
Farah Ossouli’s Information:Website: http://www.farahossouli.com/default.aspx Email: firstname.lastname@example.org