Parviz Tanavoli: Poets, Locks, Cages
Parviz Tanavoli, Poet and the Beloved of the King II, 1963, bronze. The Manijeh Collection.

Parviz Tanavoli: Poets, Locks, Cages

Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC - To Nov 19

by Robin Laurence

Iranian Canadian artist Parviz Tanavoli is often described as the father of modern Iranian sculpture. Dividing his time between his home in Vancouver, BC, and his studio in his birth city of Tehran, he has won international acclaim for art that weaves together a multitude of cultural, mystical and folkloric strands from across the long history of his homeland.

Guest curated by Pantea Haghighi, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s ambitious survey exhibition brings together sculptures in bronze, copper, gypsum and glazed stoneware along with paintings, prints and drawings. As VAG director Anthony Kiendl writes in the handsome publication that accompanies the exhibition, Tanavoli finds inspiration in the works of “celebrated Persian poets such as Rumi, Hafiz and Shirazi Saadi.” As indicated in the show’s subtitle, Tanavoli has built a significant creative practice around the forms and metaphors of locks and cages, but it seems that what he finds most compelling is poetry. “I would have loved to be a poet, but I am a sculptor,” Tanavoli says. Still, he adds, “My sculptures are a kind of poetry.”

Born in 1937, Tanavoli graduated from the Tehran School of Arts in 1955. He then spent two years in Italy, where he studied with the modernist sculptor Marino Marini. “Under Marini’s mentorship,” his biographical statement tells us, “Tanavoli was able to explore his own cultural heritage and search for a style that could express Persia’s past achievements in a modern way." Indeed, Tanavoli skilfully marries modernist aspirations to the remnants of an ancient culture while navigating his way around contemporary political and religious realities in Iran.

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