THE ART OF IRANIAN PAINTING
The history of painting in Iran dates back to those days when the earlier inhabitants of this land gave shape to what they perceived from nature, of which we find samples in drawings inscribed on some cave walls as well as ancient ceramic potteries. Such art, not only retains peculiarities similar to other early paintings in the world but also benefits from its own particular advantages.
The smooth motion, lively lines and drawings, brilliancy of colors, freedom of action, and wide stretch of imagination in Iranian designs, give the artist this possibility that by creation and illustration of his sincere feelings, and with the aid of skill and ability which, as the result of years of exercise and effort, has come to life in his fingers, can create a beautiful and glorified work of art.
Beauty which is a manifestation of the eternity of the Divine Being, and from time immemorial has been praised by the artists, has spread itself throughout all elements of Iranian paintings, either in a single or synthesized form. The artist, with the aid of beauty, has succeeded to demonstrate his perception and inspiration as well as other views in a more pleasant manner so that the viewer could find himself playing an active role in an atmosphere of discoveries and realizations provided by the artist. Love and enthusiasm for the beauties of nature have often led the Iranian painter to present his artwork in an evergreen spring setting. Vividly fresh flowers, leaves, and green plants, which are spread throughout the tableau, not only contribute to the beauty and the decorative ensemble of the work, but also emphasize on retaining the harmony and communication between the various parts of the painting.
The artful painter must have a thorough knowledge and awareness of psychology of men, a recognition of the nature and quality of the objects, living creatures, and plants. While benefiting from the guidance of intellect and a prudence at the service of feeling and imagination, mixed with his deductions from nature, he would become able to filter and refine his pre-sentiments. It would be with the help of accurate and sensitive principles particular to such art that he can easily design and illustrate.
Inspiration and form in Iranian painting are so interdependent that an artwork without insight and subject could never lead the viewer to the world of thought and meditation.
In such case, it would appear as a mere object of decoration to the extent that, if it lacks an effective and agreeable form, it would remain empty of desirable attraction and ravishment, essential to tune the message of inspiration to the mind of the observer.
The Iranian painter, in recognition, harmonization, and application of contrast and diversified colors, is very daring and tries to coordinate several incompatible colors together. He can, therefore, present them within the limit of design, with the attractive composition of individuality and development. This, he would accomplish with an artistry that the colors would spread in a uniformly balanced intensity throughout the painting. Colors made of materials extracted from rich minerals of this country and which, in the majority of cases, have long-lasting stability.
The musical intonation of colors pacing with the rhythmic movement of lines in such an artistic stage setting, can infinitely change appearance, guarding the cadence and motion of beauty in a tone of gratifying self-possession, so that in the light of frequent combination of circling lines would lead the viewer to glide his attention from the environs to the centerpiece and context of inspiration. The smooth, nice, and intermixed movement of lines, alone and isolated from ornaments of radiating bright colors, can be expressive of the message, however, designing an artwork, no matter how richly overflowed with the luster of color, could not be needless of separation of borders and environs by drawing of firm, flowing, unwavering, alive, and eye-caressing lines.
Influenced by the impression of the glowing rays of the Eastern sun, as of the remote past, inspired by the revelations of Gnosticism which enlightened the mind of the Iranian artist in a spiritual space, all manifestations of existence appeared to be absorbed by the Divine Luminosity. In the realm of such glistening space, the artist came to believe not to obscure the brightness of his artful productions by the dust of shade, and only with the assistance of thickness or delicacy of lines, he tried to demonstrate volume and intensity of light and darkness.
In drawing curves, where light and shade find a greater area to cover, he simply uses richer lines, whereas in depicting reflection of light on a plane surface, finer lines are found more applicable. Garments, dresses and other commenting devices are employed for better disclosing the design and concepts intended by the artist. In this direction, consistent with the character of movements of the original design, clothing is changed in order to provide a becoming and more suitable cover deserving to fit the harmonious built of the bodies, decency of forms, and better display of inspiration. It is the very condition of wrinkles and pleats of the garments which causes attractiveness of the design, thus associating perception of volume. Perspective and dimensions give a material and sight-read atmosphere to the picture.
The Iranian artist, relieved from distance, knowingly did not utilize depth for the simple reason that it would cause confusion of figures and designs, whereas beyond the appearance of a picture, presentation of each object at the peak of its perfection, and the summit of each question and subject as well as demonstration of the most sensitive instances, have been the main issues.
The Iranian artist decided that free from the framework of realities, adorn the nature in a supernatural fashion, and try to be the portraitist of the inherent nature of the objects rather than their outward features. Thus, he could be able to create intellectual and philosophical directives as well as spiritual and Gnostic qualifications. This very line is demarcating Iranian art from Chinese paintings whose painters believe that the excellence of art depends on a better demonstration of nature and eye-catching appearances.
While the Iranian painter employs his meditation and imagination as a guide to the endless Kingdom of heaven. Fine and minute drawing, which is practiced to add beauty and attraction to the work, has had quite a success in various schools of painting in Eastern countries, among them Iran. The people of this part of the world, under the influence of their affections and sentiments in social relations, and with their delicate perception as a particular trait, have always aimed for the highest degree of perfection of their work.
Gliding and curved drawings of Khata’i and Eslimi have gained considerable ground in Iranian painting. Not only each one in itself enjoys from a distinct Iranian identity, but also they are considered the means for ornamentation of the Iranian painting. Consequently, an Iranian artist must be capable of producing and furbishing varieties of decorative art.
Script and handwriting have passed through various stages of development during the course of their application. For years, the painting was manifesting the thinking and meditation of poets, tale-tellers, and writers; and naturally decorated the book-pages, especially during the period which because of certain inhibitions the art of painting found a more suitable hideout among the book pages. But, the painter did not confine his domain to the limited text of the page and therefore, drawings spread out onto the margins and environs. Cypress and cedar trees stretched upward, and mountain peaks tore-out the marginal border lines; clouds embracing mountain tops spread out to all environs, and birds came into flight Presenting a joyful atmosphere to the text and the margin, so that the delight of poetry and prose, as the result of intermixing with luster and artful exposition of colors, gained more elevation and attraction. Gradually, poetry and script were employed to serve as artful decoration for trimmings of large size paintings, hence drawings like “Khata’i” ‘ and ” Eslimi” * decorated frames, end-finishing, and centerpieces.
Humbleness and courtesy at the foot of the glory and grandeur of the world of creation, have been the special traits of the Iranian artists. Even though extravagant ambitiousness and flaunt of thought have never found an entrance to the mysteries of Divinity, naturally anyone trying to search farther the immensity of the vast extent of existence, would find himself more insignificant, to the point that some artists merely refrained from inscribing their name or signature at the foot of their works. Some inexplicably signed their name under the reference or resemblance with the first name of well-known religious leaders.
The Iranian painter, more than being attached to the familiar nature, is fond of the intangible world to shape, manifest, and register the extremity of his imagination in the most attractive fashion. In order to keep out and inhibit the transformations of the colorful material world from touching his imaginary world, he contemplates some sort of spirituality for his artwork creation beyond the entities predominating the unstable material life. For, only an art faithful to humanism and its more general concepts can be permanent and long-lasting.