Neshan Magazine-9-Spring 2006
Saed Meshki: You stated somewhere that you have created your works through memory, experience and mood. So you have created your works in a mystical and intense state of ecstasy. This means that your internal excitements turned into external reactions and the apparent passion resulted in creating your work. But in Iranian art the artist creates in complete tranquility. The Iranian calligrapher sat in the kind of peace and serenity that premium and glorious Iranian calligraphy requires and the artist created in utmost peace. I would like to ask you that with regards to your utilization of writings but not in its calligraphic sense, how you combined this external passion with that tranquility?
Saedegh Barirani: Iranian mystics are two groups. One group suppresses their excitements and has no movement and do not wave any hands but the other believe that when the fervor and passion is boiling from the inside it has to be transferred to their bodies too; as you can see in the mystical dance of Rumi and also the dervishes of Kurdistan. Rumi also recited his poems in a state of passion and motion. The Iranian painters and calligraphers belong to the first group. The second group also engaged their bodies in their reciting and dance and movement.One day I thought of taking advantage of this motion and movement and express what we call "moment" and one feels onto paper and make it still. The Japanese also reflect for a long time in "Zen" meditation and they fall into a state of ecstasy and in one moment they create a piece with paintbrush. Reciting and dancing accompanies words and I chose to write the word in motion. The precision and finesse of Persian calligraphy then did not help me and in one aspect I would arrive at a point where the writings would become illegible.
SM: Creating miniature or calligraphy by any artist is not possible with intense bodily motions. You believe too that your works are Iranian and the praises to and admirations of your works always took into account its eastern and Iranian orientation. I meant the contradiction that may deem here. In any case, the Iranian artist did not stare at subjects like the Zen followers in the Far East to create a piece and did not think to attack and externalize it in one moment.
SB: Iranian painting is an objective or external art. Those artists were not inclined to internal painting or what is called today as abstract. Their external observation is not also like that of classic western painters. They have another external viewpoint that is not the subject of our discussion here. Language and writings are also conventional. Writing is somewhat abstract because it is not visual. We cannot read Chinese and the illiterate person regards Persian writing as scribbles. Where we had internal observation but lacked objective image reflects as patterns on tiles, rugs and illustration. In Sheikh Lotfollah mosque in Isfahan we do not see images on the walls but a collection of geometrical shapes stretching up to the dome. When we look at these ascending patterns they create a celestial feeling in us. We know that they were not in the category of expressing motion and movement but at that same time our poets composed and recited in a state of passion and motion. Of course, I have written the Persian mystical poems in my own special handwriting and state of fervor and did not imitate the extremely beautiful and masterly Persian calligraphy because it did not help me in the situation I was. I have utilized the manner by which Iranian dervishes recite. This was another method that was not ordinary or traditional but it was Iranian. I did not intend to create a visual, external and lasting work with transcending and hasty movement of the brush.
SM: You mean you combined the two?
SB: The two that you mentioned cannot be combined. But when you take a cardiogram, the physician recognizes your heart's condition by the line movements that the cardiograph records on paper. My work is somewhat a recorded cardiogram reflected on paper which of course is registering my internal passion. Although I knew that in the west artists pursued expressing their mood by hallucinatory drugs or an artificial medium but I used a natural medium found in my homeland but that period came to an end and I deviated to another path.
SB: Because I was not in that mood anymore. In those days I listened to the music of dervishes reciting and dancing and then I recited and read a poem and fell into a state of ecstasy and in that internal fervor and excitement created my work on paper.
SM: Do you think that this method-of course in a balanced form-is executable in graphic design?
SB: It may be possible in cultural graphic design. There are a number of graphic designers that disregard the audience and create more artistic works. The example that we may mention are Polish graphic designers whose works had become very distinct and personal. Their success lied in the fact that they did not have commercial advertisement during the communist rule and most of their work involved designing theatre and cinema posters and artistic subjects and by that their artistic characters became evident.
SM: When we hear your name, subconsciously we are reminisced of your posters in Rudaki Hall; the posters that you designed on various occasions. Will you talk about that period?
SB: I studied painting in the University of Tehran's Faculty of Fine Arts and then I pursued my master's degree in painting and graphic design in the USA. In 1959 when I returned from the USA I started working in the Ministry of Culture and Art. When Rudaki Hall went into operation, I reminded them of the need for posters and this was where I could swim in the water like fish. It was at the same time that I noticed when I did graphic design for my own sake like painting, I was more successful and when I am honest with myself others will also accept and understand me. After seeing graphic design works of the Polish, I realized that I could follow my own personal expression. Gradually therefore, I incorporated my experiences and black and white patterns and that hasty black pen in my graphic design works.
SM: I would like you to talk more about Rudaki Hall; about your method and manner of design. Did you see musical and theatre performances before you designed their posters?
SB: Yes, prior to design and execution of posters I saw opera and ballet rehearsals in Rudaki Hall. I have to mention that all these posters were printed in silkscreen technique in the workshop of Graphic Art Center. Daily access therefore, for preserving the color and design was possible and plus, there were no people interfering in my works or dictate or impose anything on me.
SM: I thank you for your time.