Farideh Zariv’s ‘Word in Art’ exhibition at Cure8 Art Gallery showcased the aesthetics of Arabic and Persian letters through verses and poems
Muscat – The shape of letters, of the Arabic and Persian alphabet in particular, has inspired art since time immemorial. Calligraphy is highly valued and is the most fundamental element of Islamic art, used in surprisingly varied and imaginative ways. The written word does not just appear on paper and canvas, but through all art forms and materials, resulting in works of great beauty.
An exhibition at the Cure8 Art Gallery at the Grand Hyatt Muscat showcased the aesthetics of Arabic and Persian letters through Arabic words and Persian poems. Farideh Zariv’s exhibition – titled “Word in Art” – had paintings depicting letters from both languages on the same canvas. Arabic words including Alhamdulillah (Thanks be to God), Noon waal qalam (God swears by the pen) and Inallah were the central theme surrounded by Persian letters. Verses from the classic tragic romance of Shirin and Farhad, the word “umbr” (life) and the phrase “there is no better word than love” in Persian appeared as patterns around Arabic calligraphy with interesting results.
Among the 20 “Word in Art” exhibits was one in a pastel palette of what Farideh described as trees — a metaphor for life — with the word “umbr” inscribed as the motif. Another had a calligraphy of “I’m drunk and you’re mad, which will take us home” by Rumi – a striking composition with bold strokes that could be interpreted by those who cannot read the letters as light cutting through the sky piercing the Earth below.
Explaining the concept behind the exhibition, Farideh noted that today’s world needs spirituality. “I see emptiness in the people around me. They must look within to be fulfilled. Perhaps the task of today’s artist is to recreate spirituality by rediscovering spirituality in ancient art and reusing it in the modern world.
She described Indian yoga guru and supporter of Jagadish spirituality ‘Jaggi’ Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru, as ‘a Rumi of our times’. “He talks about looking within and living in the present. The past is past and the future is yet to come. So focus on the present.
Farideh chooses not to give titles to his art; therefore the exhibition had a name but not the individual exhibitions. Names and titles, she believes, limit viewers’ imaginations. “They should be free to interpret the art as they see fit. Putting names limits viewers’ thoughts,” she explained.
However, not all coins have letters and words with meaning. These compositions simply showcase the aesthetic power of letters in bright, contrasting color combinations.
An Australian-Iranian artist, based in Muscat for four years, Farideh has used acrylic on canvas with gold reliefs in the works in the exhibition. Director of two art galleries in Iran and curator of Cure8 Art Gallery, she also collects iconic cultural objects including Hamsa (Hand of Fatima), Iranian miniature art and wooden printing blocks.
“I am inspired by my culture. Artists can talk about their own culture better than others. Among her human inspirations is Frida Kahlo; Farideh made a pilgrimage to the surrealist artist’s Blue House museum in Mexico City.
Farideh held her first solo exhibition in Oman, titled “Spirit of Horses”, in 2017 at the Bait al Zubair Museum. Earlier in 2005, an exhibition titled “Hand of Fatima”, funded by the Australian government, was held at the Canberra Museum & Gallery. A year later, ‘Hand of Fatima’ was invited by the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum in Cape Town, South Africa.
Most recently – in November 2021 – Farideh and her husband, Dr. Nasser Palangi, Associate Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the Scientific College of Design in Muscat, were privileged to be among 400 artists from 170 countries to show their work at Expo 2020 Dubai representing Australia.
The same month, she was invited to the Tashkent International Art Biennale. She described these events as exhibition opportunities to learn about other artists and styles. “It’s great interactions between artists from so many different countries.”
Farideh has exhibited on six of the seven continents and her works are held in private and public collections in several countries.
Despite her tenacious creativity, she believes that artists should take time to craft the art. “If you’re going to exhibit your art, you have to have something new to say. You can’t go from one common exhibit today to another tomorrow and hang the same art. “It took her five years to conceptualize, design and create the ‘Word in Art’ pieces.
Commenting on Oman’s art scene, she observed: “Yes, more galleries are needed; but more importantly, more well-oriented galleries.
About ‘Word in Art’, Muna Ritchie, co-founder of Omani Heritage Gallery, said: “Art is all around us – oral, visual and audio. Farideh takes the words of poets and transforms them into visual art. His canvases marry the two mediums in a harmonious symphony that the public can both see and hear in their minds.
Reflecting the success of the show, 12 of the 20 pieces were sold before closing on Saturday.
‘Word in Art’ was inaugurated by HH Afra Talal al Said on December 26, 2021. Cure8 Art Gallery was founded and is led by artist, art curator and photographer Sarah al Aulaqi.