Monir Farmanfarmaian’s curiosity and thirst for cultural exploration fuelled her extensive travels within Iran during which she studied the crafts of nomadic tribes and visited various ancient cities, looking closely at the intricate Islamic architectural ornamentation. To design her elaborate, three dimensional panels, the artist worked with local craftsmen who helped her draft preliminary patterns and designs. Following her travels, Farmanfarmaian started to experiment with the techniques and methods she had observed, adapting reverse-glass painting, Khatam kari (inlaid marquetry), Aineh-kari (mirror mosaics), and typical Persian motifs to create modern geometric artworks, each piece mesmerisingly kaleidoscopic in nature. The Hall of Mirrors in the Golestan Palace in Tehran and the Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad are two prime examples of this ornamentation, and Farmanfarmaian's work is strongly reminiscent of these heavy styles and decorated rooms. “In 1966 I went with Robert and Marcia to the 14th Shrine of Shah Cheragh,” she told Hans Ulrich Obrist. “It has high ceilings, domes, and mirror mosaics with fantastic reflections. We sat there for half an hour, and it was like a living theatre: people came in all their different outfits and wailed and begged at the shrine, and all the crying was reflected all over the ceiling and everywhere, and I cried too because of all the beautiful reflections. I said to myself, I must do something like that, something that people can hang in their homes.” (the artist in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Karen Marta, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Cosmic Geometry, London, 2011, p. 19).
While this rich mirror-mosaic recalls the work of Frank Stella, a friend of Monir’s from her time in New York, the initial spark for these works came much earlier from all the countless travels through her native Iran. Variations on Hexagon and Octagon Mirror goes beyond the merely aesthetic. Farmanfarmaian reaches near perfection with a rare work blending both circles and angular intricate mirrors carrying an ever growing mystical meaning close to Sufi notions such as a reflection of the self. The mirror is also variously associated with purity, brightness, symmetry, veracity and fortune. The red hexagon at the core of the work reflects the six virtues: generosity, self-discipline, patience, determination, insight, and compassion. These hexagons are contained by an octagon surrounded by a subtle mirror-mosaic that draws the attention towards the central composition.
Through Variations on Hexagon and Octagon Mirror Farmanfarmaian again reinvents the idea of mirror mosaics, transforming and elevating their purpose from decoration to an individual art form in its own right with explosive colourful reflections. The artist not only breaks the boundary between traditional arts and contemporary practices by pushing her creations in a new direction but also creates a visual dialogue that no other artist masters.
The moon never
on these objects of the
out of the Earth’s
resides in virtual
and the fragmentation of
Extract from A Poem for Monir by Etel Adnan
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