Armajani’s early calligraphic works represent the first flowering of his long-term interest in probing the links between word and image. In this painting, inscriptions derived from stanzas of Persian poetry and numerical sequences suffuse a white pictorial field. These inscriptions, written in varying styles of calligraphy, form what Shiva Balaghi terms “an illegible, dizzying confluence of images” that contrasts with the traditional orderliness of Persian calligraphy. Here Armajani’s use of poetry as source material may also imply social critique—he once remarked in an interview that poets were traditionally the only members of Iranian society whose expression of political and social protest was not censured.
1. Shiva Balaghi, “Iranian Visual Arts in ‘The Century of Machinery, Speed, and the Atom’: Rethinking Modernity,” in Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution, ed. Lynn Gumpert and Shiva Balaghi (London: I.B. Tauris, 2002), 31. Reprinted in Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection, ed. Lynn Gumpert (New York: Grey Art Gallery, New York University, in association with Himmer Publishers, 2019), 36.
2. Lisa Lyons, “The Poetry Garden of Siah Armajani,” Design Quarterly 160 (1994): 11.