Eyn, Shin, Ghafj, 2014 Image Credit: Supplied

It is obvious from the artworks in Ramin Shirdel’s first solo exhibition in Dubai, “Whispers of Love”, why the Iranian artist is also an award-winning architect. Shirdel’s three-dimensional wall-mounted works have been created from hundreds of painted pieces of wood of different shapes and sizes. These have been assembled together in layers that further combine to form Farsi-Arabic letters and words. The artworks, painted with bright automotive paints, look different from different angles. As you move around the pieces, the letters and words appear and disappear. And the layers seem to move in a rhythmic, wave-like motion, with the criss-crossing lines formed by the shadows adding to the movement and drama.

The words visible on the surface of these works are all inspired by the theme of love. They include “ashegh” (lover); “mahboob” (beloved) and “aghoosh” (embrace); as well as seemingly unrelated words such as “moj” (wave) and “tohfe” (masterpiece). But together they form the narrative of a love story with dramatic twists and turns.

“The concept behind this series was to convey the feelings of a lover as he dreams about his beautiful beloved and imagines their life together. The barely visible words allude to a lover whispering to himself. And the colours I have used reflect the intensity of a lover’s emotions. Even viewers who cannot read this script can feel the strong emotions behind these abstract pieces,” Shirdel says.

But on another level, Shirdel’s artworks speak about spiritual love and the whispered prayers that express the desire for union with the divine. “Earthly love is the beginning of spiritual love. Experiencing the pain and joy of worldly love helps us to move on to a more elevated form of love,” the artist says. “The concept of love is universal, but every person has a different understanding of it. My artworks change with the shifting positions of the viewer, inviting every viewer to engage with them in their individual way on a visual, emotional and intellectual level,” he adds.

The Tehran–based artist has a masters degree in architecture from Tehran University of Art and has won many awards for his projects in Iran and abroad. But he has always been interested in art and literature. Hence he was drawn towards looking for a technique that combines formal considerations of space with inspirations from Persian literature and poetry to create his pieces. The process he has used is complex and time-consuming, making each work a true labour of love. And the artist has been experimenting with it for more than four years.

“My imagination gets sparked by an image, a poem, a landscape or even a conversation. For this series I had a basic concept in my mind, and began by making a lot of sketches. Based on the sketches, I made digital and sculptural models, trying different ways of assembling the layers, before expanding the idea to a larger scale. Each work comprises more than 1,500 individual wooden pieces, precisely cut in different shapes and sizes. Some have sharp edges, while others have curved ones, reflecting the fact that love can be wonderful as well as cruel. I did everything with my own hands, from cutting the pieces to painting them with automotive paints to assembling the many layers that form the letters and words. That is why it took me almost two months to make each artwork. Each layer in these pieces has no meaning. But together they result in something symbolic and iconic, telling a story that has universal resonance,” the artist says.

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts enthusiast based in Dubai.

“Whispers of Love” will run at Ayyam gallery, DIFC, until June 5.


Dreams Vs Reality

In her latest exhibition, “Dreams Vs Reality”, Emirati artist Wafa Khazendar shares her thoughts and dreams on topics such as the relationship between a man and a woman; a woman’s role in society; and the freedom of self-expression. The artist is also a poet and writer, and many of her paintings are based on her poems and short stories. Her bright palette and the bold outlines of the figures in her paintings express the intensity of her feelings. And she often uses the symbolism of creatures such as roosters, cats, fish, horses and bulls to convey her feelings about gender issues and male and female stereotypes in Middle Eastern society. Verses from her poems often appear in the background as calligraphic words, offering clues for the interpretation of the paintings. “I do not want my figures to look real. I deliberately avoid perspective and draw flat figures because my paintings dwell in a realm that is between reality and dreams,” the artist says.

“Dreams Vs Reality” will run at Baginskaya gallery until June 14.