Sophia Contemporary is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in the UK by renowned Iranian sculptor and painter Pooya Aryanpour. The artist will exhibit a range of his celebrated mirror sculptures alongside new paintings from his Under the Shell series (2016). Rooted in his personal heritage, Aryanpour’s works bring a thoroughly contemporary expression to the Iranian visual tradition – from its artistic techniques to cultural symbolisms - while referencing and exploring the Western tradition of abstract art.
Aryanpour’s practice is preoccupied with the exploration of painterly and sculptural abstraction and the relationship between humans and their natural environment. As he explains “I have always tried to find the romance and poetry in shapes and colours and explore their properties.” The artist takes as his point of reference transient symbols such as flowers, letters, architectural constructions and maps which he then abstracts in order to capture the essence of the ephemeral physical world.
In Beautiful Virgin (2015) and Temptation (2015) the artist has used mirrored sculptures to explore this sense of fluidity and instability. The tradition of mirror works (ayeneh-kari) in Iran takes its roots in the ceilings of Iranian mosques, which are often covered in highly elaborate mirror mosaics, representing the heavens and the worship of God. While the artist also uses the traditional craftsmanship of ayeneh-kari to create his contemporary art works, he is the first Iranian artist who has chosen to use the medium to depict non-religious concepts. By replacing the sacred with the profane, for example through his use of the human body as a subject matter, Aryanpour’s sculptures contradict and subvert the original notion of ayeneh-kari.
The use of ayeneh-kari allows the artist to create sculptures which he perceives as ever-evolving. The diffraction of light created by the mirrors blurs the viewer’s perception of form and concept and the works are constantly changing depending on how you look at them, how the light is projected and where you stand in relation to them.
By playing with the mirror’s elusiveness, the artist creates a sense of mystery and beauty within his sculptures, a concept he calls the ‘secret idea’. The suggestion of femininity and the mystery of the female body also runs throughout these works.
In his abstraction of the female form Aryanpour aims to imbue the works with meanings, which are explicit yet elusive. The works in his painting series Under the Shell (2016) further exemplify the artist’s fascination with the mystery of the surface and its power to cloak or reveal contents. The paintings are materialised in richly textured surfaces created with acrylic on canvas, their abstract shapes and vivid colours morphing harmoniously to create a mysterious whole infused with mysticism and suspense.
About Pooya Aryanpour:
Born in Tehran, Iran in 1971, Pooya Aryanpour obtained a BA and MA in Painting at the School of Plastic Arts and at the Azad University, Tehran, Iran. He currently lives and works in Tehran and teaches Painting, Drawing and Art History at Azad University, Tehran. His work has been widely exhibited in Iran and internationally.
Aryanpour grew up as part of an academic family and was home schooled from childhood. His father is an emblematic figure in Iran’s intellectual heritage and was a pioneer in adapting modern social sciences to the Iranian context in the 1960s. The artist’s upbringing is reflected in his philosophical vision and artistic practice which is influenced by Jacques Derrida’s theory of ‘Deconstructivism’, a concept his father helped introduce into Iranian academia.