by Jyoti Kalsi, Gulf News
New York-based Iranian artist Nima Behnoud’s work is inspired by Persian culture and calligraphy. In his first ever exhibition, Behnoud is showcasing a series of silk-screen prints on paper that feature verses from famous poet Rumi, references to Persian history and mythology, pre-Islamic Iranian motifs, calligraphic letters and Islamic arabesque patterns. But the vivid colours he has used, the way he has juxtaposed the different elements, and his emphasis on geometric forms rather than the meaning of the words gives these artworks a contemporary look.
A striking feature of Behnoud’s work is the beautiful way in which the blues, reds and oranges flow into each other to create a bright background for his layered compositions. The colours are influenced by his work as a fashion designer. In fact, while he has never exhibited his art in public before, his label NimaNY is quite well known around the world. The clothing brand, established in 2004, has been featured in prestigious magazines such as Vogue and Maxim, and his clients include celebrities such as Kevin Spacey, Heidi Klum and Paris Hilton. “The colours look so vibrant because although these artworks are done on handmade paper, instead of ink, I used the same fabric paints here that I use on my garments,” the artist says.
In some of the artworks, Behnoud has merely played with a single calligraphic letter to create fun, pop-art-like compositions. In others ancient motifs such as winged lions, angels, royal seals and fantasy characters from the epic “Shahnameh” are superimposed on a collage of words comprising Rumi’s poetry, excerpts from literary texts and even calligraphers’ practice sheets. “Rumi’s poetry in the background depicts the richness, depth and enduring beauty of my country’s cultural heritage, whereas the symbols on top represent superficial elements that keep changing over the years. For example, in one artwork I have used a Qajar dynasty royal stamp with a very French design to comment on the foreign influence on the cultural fabric of my country during that period. And in another piece, I used the royal seals of kings from various periods in Iranian history to depict the contrast between Iran’s deep cultural heritage and the shallow, egoistic and elitist attitude of those who ruled the country,” Behnoud says.