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  • In Bewilderment of Birds

    Friday, 10 September – Sunday, 24 October 2021

    Open daily except Mondays from 12-8pm
    Fridays 3-8pm

  • Life and works of Pantea Rahmani,
    From 1994 to 2021

    An exhibition of giant birds. Latest works of the contemporary artist, formerly known for her collection of demons, bold self-portraits and panoramic images Tehran. But for some time now she has been focused on her giant bird’s collection. “In Bewilderment of Birds" project includes 50 works by Pantea Rahmani. Project exhibition will be held simultaneously in Lajevardi Foundation and Etemad Gallery. The Exhibition includes two other parts, the book launch of exhibition and the screening of two documentaries, "‌Bukan’s Bride" and "Little Owl’s Song", which are held at the Lajevardi Foundation. A review of the artist's intellectual courses prior recently, will also be held at Etemad Gallery.

    Images and motifs of birds have been widely used all over Iran and other parts of the world in art and culture. These images represent various meanings in different societies. Some can be seen as symbols of omnipresence of birds in people's daily lives, while others carry multilayered concepts and sacred secrets. Birds imply a diverse set of beliefs in history, culture and myth. They represent symbolic concepts such as the royalty, the sacred, the spiritual journey, the battle of good and evil, happiness or ominousness, the message of change and reincarnation, as well as representing a wide range of mystical and ritual metaphors.

    Birds are winged flying organisms. Flying is the greatest envy of all and a well-known metaphor for liberation from life on earth and connecting with the heavens. Thus, in many religions and allegorical stories, birds have been used as the incarnation of angels, inferring spiritual ascension as well as the highest levels of intellect and awareness.

    In Islamic mysticism, one of the most important symbolic meanings of birds is the soul or "Jaan" of men. Also, in Greece, souls of ancestors and the dead are embodied in birds.

    Sharp eyed with wings, and the ability to fly, make birds unique, strange, and fantastic creatures. A mysterious animal that, while stimulating human imagination, is a metaphor of the journey between earth and the heavens as well as our movement between the material and the spiritual world. That’s why bird is also a messenger and a guide.

    Stunning birds are abundant and exemplary across Iranian historic art and literature. "Morgh", which is a general word for birds, has symbolic, inspiring and immaterial implications. Birds have their own language and know the rules of kingdom of heaven and are the embodiment of the intellectual path of the chosen and the higher spiritual levels.

    For example, "Havva birds"* are the ideal form of intellectual life of the mystic and represent the desire to move towards enlightenment. "Righteous bird", "noble bird" and "size-less bird" in contrast to "earth bird", "house bird" and "blind bird" are code names for those who have reached the higher world*.  Hence, birds are among the most prominent animal symbols in Iranian culture. They represent a desire to symbolically express public beliefs and historical and collective aspirations. Some of them, such as Simorgh, Homa, Phoenix, Nightingale and hawk, are among our most important national symbols.

    In Sufi thought and Persian mystical literature, the bird songs and their flight are clear symbol of spiritual excitement and moving towards freedom. According to Sufis, life has two aspects: one is earthly and the other is spiritual and other worldly. Accordingly, the human soul is trapped in its earthly body* , and the constant desire to join its Creator and origin, stirs an excitement in men. A desire and fever that causes the truth wayfarer to start his or her journey. A detailed description of this desire and the images which arise around liberation from the restrictive earthly body and cage, form the totality of mystical and Sufi thought.

    For Sufi, the image of a bird and its flight is a meaningful symbol of the spiritual excitement and the genuine human desire for freedom. Bird songs are a reminiscence of this desire and this desire is expressed through birdsongs over and over*.  However, the result of Sufi reflections on these symbols and their interpretations include many perspectives and cannot be covered in a short introduction. Just like the Sufi journey that has no end.

    Pantea Rahmani is an artist with a professional career that spans over three decades and has taken her through various periods of creative experiences. She now has her own personal artistic world. Over the years, she has shown courage in choosing her subjects and in expressing individualistic beliefs and in showing her lifestyle clearly. This courage is an integral part of her artistic language and works.

    Birds and their images in the artist's later works symbolize the soul in moving towards what Rahmani seeks in meditation, isolation, and frequent trips to India. Her birds live in cardboard "cages", canvases, and in the sculptures made of wires and Papier-mâché. However, their form, body, and gaze into the spectator are magical, secretive, and questionable. It is as if they have reached a secret but hide its meaning.

    The artist’s birds are sometimes familiar and sometimes strange, sometimes alone, and sometimes in groups of few, inanimate and moving, as if recording personal, mysterious and ritualistic experiences. They can be regarded as expressions of unique moments or instantaneous and contemplative inspirations, more common in Gnosticism and Oriental schools of wisdom.

    Pantea Rahmani is a contemporary artist who has always pursued her personal motivations and explored her own ideas, regardless of the trends in art; This has always been a prominent and valuable feature of her work. Vegetarianism, love of animals and a deep concern for environment make a big part of her life and can be traced in her works.
    Tehran is as fascinating and informative to her as Helsinki, Budapest or Bombay that all have been her refuge and private corners for her artistic creation.

    “In Bewilderment of Birds” project provides the audience with some of the most important details influencing artist life course and evolution of her works alongside the exhibition of Pantea Rahmani's recent works. Furthermore, exhibition Book, which includes notes, analytical texts and conversations with the artist, provides images and information about artist’s personal life and various work phases and complement audience’s perception.

    Another part of the project includes the screening of two documentaries, "Bukan’s Bride" directed by Fathollah Amiri and "Little Owl Song" directed by Mehdi Nour Mohammadi, at the Lajevardi Foundation. Unplanned economic development and unbalanced urban expansion, in the absence of holistic and purposeful management, have deteriorated our nature and endangered different species, including birds. In these two documentaries, the audience get a glimpse of today's Iran environmental challenges, as well as threats to endangered species of birds.

    Birds used to be an integral part of our relationship with myths, social culture and the environment around us. But today they have become a marginal and vulnerable bit of our life that is being destroyed in large batches. In Bewilderment of Birds seeks to reflect on our current relationship with nature and to improve our understanding of birds as one of the most vital elements of life and harmony in our daily life struggle.

    * Look at this poem in Abusa'id Abolkhayr Ruba'iyat: “Havva birds are from another nest, men of God are from another dirt, don’t look with the same eye at them, because they are free from existence pairs and are from another space.” Or these verses from Saib Tabrizi: “Just as Havva bird’s shadow, we disturbed no one, not even an ant, and passed away; blood wine or hearts grief be our portion, we left our turn and passed way.”
    * Maryam Haghshenas, DAVOOD SPARHAM, (2020). Analysis of Rumi and Suhrawardi’s pictorial reading of the concept of captivity of the bird of the soul (birds' stories in Masnavi and allegorical treatises), Religions & Mysticism, 53(1), 23-42.
    * This belief is based on two Quran verses: “So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him” (15:29) and also the same: “So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him.” (38:72)
    * Look at Kashkūl of Baha' al-din al-'Amili also known as Sheikh Baha'I, fifth volume- part two: “you sleeping like blind and deaf, in this sanctuary of clueless; raise your head from this campground, don’t you hear singing from everywhere? Doves on straight cedars whispering, nightingales on flower minarets singing”