Galerie Nathalie Obadia is very pleased to present After examining the logbook, the doctors assume they are dealing with the plague, Shahpour Pouyan’s second solo exhibition in Paris after the gallery’s first show dedicated to the artist in 2017. Considered as one of the most important Iranian artists in the contemporary scene, Shahpour Pouyan reflects on notions of power and domination in his multi-facetted and poetic oeuvre, articulating various influences from Persian culture, historical symbols and contemporary socio-political issues.
Through an ensemble of recent miniatures and ceramics, Shahpour Pouyan proposes a dialogue between the mediums of painting and sculpture, poeticism and functionality, and the elements of water and light. In this project, the artist continues his practice of using history and tradition in conversation with the present and modernism.
The two-dimensional miniatures are a continuation of a series starting in 2008 and are altered reproductions of medieval and pre-modern paintings from Iran and central Asia. First shown as part of Lahore Biennale in 2017, these paintings pertain to the subject of sailing and stories of travel at sea. These reproductions are crafted with near-complete loyalty in regards to size, aesthetic and the appearance of age, creating the illusion of historical originality. However, all figures have been removed, including any hero or mythical creature that may have been present, obscuring the subjects and interfering with the narrative certainty of the worlds within the miniatures.
A ship at sea has been the metaphor of destiny or uncertainty of human life and a core depiction of fate since medieval times in Iran and the surrounding region. Water, a sacred element, represents clarity and purification and in Persian painting tradition is rendered in silver paint. However, the fate of silver is to oxidize into darkness. An individual’s can be likened to a ship sailing upon a dark sea, unable to see what the rough waters may contain and unable to control where the currents of fate will lead.
In dialogue with the miniatures, the glazed ceramics presented in the exhibition constitute variations on the motive of the lighthouse. Lighthouses provide light and navigation for ships at sea, providing a way to avoid dangerous obstacles and chart a clearer path in the dark. Because of this function, they are used as metaphors for guidance and knowledge. They are more functional, mathematically based, and utilitarian than the poetic narrative of the paintings.
The height of a lighthouse is based on the trigonometric formula to calculate the accurate range of sight necessary to avoid hazardous distance to the land. Color and shape are calculated to optimize the ability to navigate lost watercraft. Through history, many different sources of power were used to illuminate lighthouses, from fire to a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. The phosphorescent pigment is used in this project is an alternative source of light. The constructions presented here are not based on existing lighthouses, but take on forms that are both familiar and unusual. Featuring characteristics of traditional lighthouse architecture and elements of futuristic buildings, the structures are designed by taking functional and geometric considerations to the extreme and created in response to the miniatures.
The title of the show is inspired by the plot of Nosferatu (A Symphony of Horror) directed by F.W. Murnau (1922). The artist also draws inspiration from the symbolism of Dracula by Bram Stoker and the ongoing global refugee crisis.