Golnaz Fathi is an influential member of an invigorating group of contemporary artists that has come to prominence in Iran over the last two decades. Fathi is further distinguished in being one of only a handful of women trained to the highest levels within the traditional school of Persian calligraphy. While fully aware of the dramatic potential of calligraphic forms and honoured to have been selected by the exclusive assembly of traditional calligraphers, Fathi made the conscious decision to pursue a career as a contemporary artist instead. True to her instincts, she has followed a rigorous impulse towards abstraction, even as it has carried her beyond the boundaries of conventional scripts. Her startling combination of a traditionally trained, calligraphic refinement and an instinctively modernist abstraction is particularly marked in this new series.
Many of Fathi’s latest works on canvas show script that has been painted over or deliberately erased by superimposed layers. While exact transmission depends upon the legibility of any particular text, here the sheer accumulation of overwritten lines obliterates any possibility of straightforward interpretation. These blocks of proto-script are, in fact, deliberate abstractions incapable of being parsed or otherwise understood. They challenge each viewer to intuit or discover entirely new levels of significance for themselves.
To these blocks of black script on white background Fathi adds bright swatches of primary hues, creating vibrant contrasts that reference intense personal feelings about life and the complex interrelationships that link peoples and places. Red, always a strident marker of life and vitality, confronts various blues—perhaps signifying water and hope—shot through with its complementary of bright, chrome yellow, suggestive both of warmth and the raging heat of the sun. In keeping with the total lack of legible signs, these inscrutable colour combinations operate as subliminal hints, sounding powerful chords that resonate beyond the limits of ordinary language. Eluding the usual channels of transmission and exchange, Fathi’s canvases require that viewers sense their way slowly forwards, using their feelings, intuitions and emotions to unlock the eloquent yet unwritten discourse of her canvases.