Calligraphy work by Abol Atighetchi.
Mohammad Yusuf, Feature Writer
This Ramadan, Oblong Contemporary Gallery, Dubai, presents Iranian artist Abol Atighetchi (March 31 – May 30). For the first time, a series of 12 unpublished paintings is exhibited to the public.
It covers over 31 years of Atighetchi’s artistic career, spanning from 1991 to 2022. Some of the earliest paintings are “The Iroquois” (painted in 1991), showing the artist’s view of the American Indian tribes of the red skin located in North America, particularly in Canada. ; a canvas on ‘Mururoa’ and two paintings on ‘Rainbow Warriors’, Green Peace’s ship. There is a large acrylic piece on Quranic illumination, done from the artist’s point of view. Calligraphy painting is also featured, where viewers can admire the influence on the artist of the great Persian poet, Maulana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.
Born in Tehran in 1948 to a well-known family, Atighetchi completed his primary education in Tehran and was sent to complete his higher education in Switzerland and then boarding school in England, where he obtained a BSC degree as an engineer. Aeronautics from Queen Mary College, University of London.
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He studied Fine Art at Midwest City College, USA and Solihull College, UK. When he lived in France from 1983 to 1992, he painted a series of figurative paintings entitled “New Figuration”.
He preferred to keep the collection hidden – until he decided to bring them to light with a new collaboration with Oblong Contemporary Gallery in Dubai.
Works of art from this period represent Atighetchi’s interpretation of the different cultures of the world. It shows how he viewed ancient populations in North and South America, African tribes, Papua New Guinea and the Far East.
In 1996, his work took him back from New Figuration to his roots, and he was led to follow his love for calligraphy inspired by Rumi, in another stage of his artistic evolution.
The difficulties he encountered when learning calligraphy mainly resided in questions of composition and coloring, and in the search for balance and harmony. Calligraphy is a sacred Islamic art and Atighetchi took on the challenge of mastering it with confidence, without formal school training. He started with verses from the Quran and mastered the Thuluth and Naskh writing styles.
He then moved on to the Nastaligh style, which is a Persian style of calligraphy, and then to modern calligraphy. “Calligraphy is an Islamic art that I master,” he says, developing his own style. He combines the use of colors with large dimensions and deep compositions; black is no longer predominant. Atighetchi also paints calligraphy on wood, where he uses lines and dots to adorn the background.
His French paintings were done in a completely different style that explores the smoothness and thickness of black lines.
Since 1987, he regularly participates in auctions at Art Drouot, Bonhams and Sotheby’s, as well as in other online auction domains. Among his works snatched up at auction is ‘Hamd Alla’, which fetched $3,600 at Bonhams Dubai in 2009.
“Great admirer” of Rumi, who was for him a huge source of inspiration, he dedicated many of his calligraphies to him. He is a member of the Maison des Artistes, France, as well as the Iranian Artists Forum, Iran, since 1979.
The time he came of age as an artist was the 1960s, when the twin movements of pop and minimalism emerged side by side. This may have prompted him to switch to minimalism, and he traced his journey from figurative paintings to calligraphy and minimalism in an interview.
“I started with figurative paintings and a friend of mine in France suggested that I participate in auctions in Paris,” recalls Atighetchi. “I participated, sent three paintings and sold all three. From there, a gallery owner bought me 10 paintings every year – and that’s how I started. He continued to paint and sell and after 10 years in France he returned to Iran. He discovers an attachment to calligraphy, and his lines attract him.
He uses many lines in much of his work. His heart affair with lines led him to look into the movements of the pen. Thus, he learned calligraphy on his own – even the techniques were self-taught. It was his way or not.
“My first calligraphy paintings weren’t so good,” he recalls. It took him about three years to be convinced that his calligraphy works stood up to scrutiny.
He admitted that the transition to minimalism was difficult. According to him, you cannot use too many details in a composition: you have to say a lot with a little. Here was the challenge.
Success in everything he has done, he is to stay in minimalism, because the field is vast and life is limited. In the meantime, he is satisfied to have explored fields such as calligraphy, post-modernism, the figurative and minimalism.
How many can claim this success? Oblong Contemporary is an Italian art gallery specializing in international contemporary art. Founded in 2019, it collaborates with talent by providing a local and international platform and ensuring value at its locations in Dubai and Forte dei Marmi, Italy. He is committed to creating an arena for culture and to functioning as a bridge between Italy and the United Arab Emirates.