Two Iranian artists team up to create dazzling works

It is clear from the title that the exhibit Sohrab & the Bees & the Rose & the Nightingale will flood us with a plethora of signs and visual vectors. Mohsen Ahmandvand and Fereydoun Ave have known each other’s works for years, but their approach to art and the techniques they employ cannot be more different. One is explosive and exoteric, the other is implosive and esoteric. What moved these two artists to work together was first and foremost mutual respect. If their approach to art is different, their works share elements that nevertheless bring them together – their relationship to the semiology of contemporary Iran, and chief among them, other than rose and nightingale, is the warrior and the hero, whose various manifestations show up in their works frequently and serially.

Their mode of cooperation was a give and take that started with one artist offering the other a print of an element of his previous work and the other adding his own designs to it. This cooperation brought in two galleries of Tehran – Etemad and Dastan – along with their buyers to the challenge.

To me, another factor forces Ahmadvand to reach out for a joint project – to liberate himself from the shackles of a nightmarish universe that in this post-satirical age returns the biting humour of its arrows back to itself. For Ave, art as play need not be exclusive. It can be a creative way to face the realities of our fears. The world of his art looks to open skies, where there is no room for hopelessness. It has gone beyond healing and now resides in equanimity.

Sohrab & the Bees & the Rose & the Nightingale allows these two artists to distance themselves from their selves and their oeuvres. Qualities of each have transformed the other. The surfaces are nevertheless filled with empty spaces. The mere act of cooperation and the acceptance of the specificity of the other turns Sohrab & the Bees & the Rose & the Nightingale into an invitation to think and converse – and act together to face the fears that characterise our age.


By Sohrab Mahdavi

Fereydoun Ave and Mohsen Ahmadvand, Sohrab & the Bees & the Rose & the Nightingale, 2018. Courtesy of the Artists and Dastan’s Basement