About Monir Faramanfarmaeian
Monir Shahroudi Faramanfarmaeian is one of the international artists, whose works are known in Iran and in different countries as well. Monir Faramanfarmaeian was born in Qazvin in 1922 and completed her education in fashion illustration at Parsons High School in New York and later at Cornell University. For many years, she worked as a fashion illustrator for leading US journals, graphic designer and designed the showcases of the city’s big stores.
When she was young, she collaborated with Frank Stella, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol, young artists who later became world art giants. Her reputation is due to her Āina-kāri and transformation of Iranian symbolic architecture into world art.
On a trip to Shiraz, she was fascinated by the Āina-kāri of the Shah Cheragh Mosque and based on geometric designs derived from these Āina-kāri, she created such an artwork with the help of traditional Iranian mirror masters, that were unique in the 1960s and 70s in the world and entered the European and American museums and collections.
Now the 96-year-old artist is the first female artist in Iran who owns a dedicated museum and displays her works in an old building. The Negarestan garden, built in 1807 by the order of Fath Ali Shah Qajar as a summer residence, after many years has been the basis for the establishment of a Mostazraefeh school headed by Kamal-ol-molk, and in the 1971 it was dedicated to displaying a rich and unique collection of Qajar art works. On December 2017, a new museum was opened at the heart of this collection and the works of Monir Faramanfarmaeian were exposed to the audience.
“When asked what informs and inspires her, Monir replies: ‘Everything. Traveling, being born here in Iran, seeing mirror works in Shiraz, the mosques, the palaces—everything.’” – Monir Faramanfarmaeian
Museum of Monir Faramanfarmaeian in the Negarestan’s garden
Most of the works featured in this collection are related to mirrors, most of which are mounted on the wall. Some of these works are simple geometric patterns that come together to put small mirrors into regular geometric shapes. Samples of this mirror are visible in Iranian and Islamic architecture and are fully familiar to all viewers. With the limited use of color, the artist has created more visual appeal in these works and distinguishes these works from the original mirror design using the tradition of painting behind the glass.
In the other part of the work, the masterpieces have created great and prolific works of tradition and modernity, with the small and delicate mirrors arranged together with the exact geometric calculations, and the audience faces a dreamy atmosphere. But the combination of simple geometric designs in different works has created a variety of forms, each of which has a unique direction. Another category of mirrors is devoted to three-dimensional forms or asymmetric motifs that are no longer associated with the Iranian mirror tradition.
In one of these works, you can see the mirror curved sections that are carefully placed together and clinging like shells to each other towards the corner of the board and where a geometric form is located. The work titled “Noh Zelei Famile Chaharom” is from the later works of Farmanfarmaeian, which creates in 2013and is reminiscent of the galaxies with its stars. The proper lighting of the hall has made the reflection of light scattered around the hall with mirrors, creating a fantastic atmosphere for the audience.
Room Full of Mirrors
“Alive with the kinetic potential in the mirror’s power to reflect, and in that of glass to refract, Monir’s works present a world wherein everything is moving to transformative effect. One assumes, when standing before one of her pieces, a central, essentially performative role in invigorating and enervating its surface; and yet, there is a sense, too, that the world as one knows it becomes something of an ‘other’, a fragmented futuristic fantasy of ethereal import. It is an entirely immersive and wonderfully kaleidoscopic experience, which, while ‘it takes your mood’, to quote the artist, encourages new ways of seeing as well as an appreciation of the intangible and transfiguring power of light. Light and life-affirming, unique and yet peculiarly universal, Monir’s work, inherent in which is the legacy of Iranian geometric design elucidated to make art purely for art’s sake, is inspired by her history, her childhood, and the ‘feeling’ of her eyes and her heart.”
Āina-kāri is not the only field of her work. Throughout her artistic career, she has been engaged in various activities and has used various materials for her artistic expression. The carpet and its motifs are one of these tools, but she has used the carpet in a different shape from its traditional and well-known form. In fact, knitting needles are a tool that represents the artist’s geometric patterns on a soft, elegant surface, and they are placed on a silky white background with limited colours. There is also a carpet, with curved, abandoned and interconnected lines reminiscent of Kandinsky’s paintings.
The foundation of these works is the drawing of geometric designs on the surface of the paper and seeing pages that have colourful and regular lines on them and creating different forms, is another attraction of this museum. Monir’s works are totally rooted in mathematics and Oriental geometry, and this geometry, which is the foundation of beauty, comes with thin colourful lines on the paper to engage viewers with magic proportions.
He also has painting abilities that are abandoned and completely different from her Āina-kāri.
The subject of most of her works are colourful flowers that create lively and unobtrusive images. In a number of other tableaus, mythical images can be seen, and part of the paintings are abstractions influenced by action paintings.
Her activity in fashion has not been ignored in this collection. Four pieces of jewellery on green cloth, represent the same approach of the artist to the geometric designs but this time, instead of the mirror, they were created using gold, ruby and emerald to make Iranian art more unique.
Her interest in culture and use it in creating the artwork has created another attraction of this collection. The section that links directly to culture, is a collection called “Jabe Dard Va Del”. The framers in these boxes have created symbols based on the culture, beliefs, and aspirations of a nation using floral fabric, lace, dolls, statues, and every kind of simple and banal tool. In the permanent museum hall of Monir Faramanfarmaeian, some examples of the extensive collection of art created by the artist in the last seventy-five years have been featured, and by dedicating her personal collection to the University of Tehran, she has provided a valuable opportunity for the Iranians to dwell hours away from bustle of the city in light and dream.