The Pencil Evolution 

Iranian identity and the graphics of Alireza Abedini

Wednesday, Jan 3 2007

Iran is a society based on dichotomy, a place where people live separate and sometimes clashing public and private lives, where strength and venerability are the foundations, and where duality of identity has become a major social issue for youth. It began 250 years ago during the Ghajar dynasty, when the Western world’s education system and sociopolitical ideology breached Iran’s borders. Today, as part of the Islamic Republic’s reforms, the Iranian government is trying to reverse the effects of that quiet colonization. But with legal and illegal distribution of information through the Internet and satellite television, people are directly affected by the messages from the Western hemisphere. Freedom of speech is still a privilege, not a right, but teenagers choose to dress like their favorite American pop stars. More and more people use English in their daily conversations, creating a hilarious mixture of Farsi and English with a Farsi accent. Confusion reigns.

Like the Iranian people, Iranian art is desperately seeking an identity. Reza Abedini is an artist and educator who has rediscovered the magic of his nation’s rich history. He has looked to the West, thrown out what he has learned there and begun looking inward. He is part of an evolution, not a revolution. Abedini is determined to demonstrate a side of his life that has been hidden under the rubble of war, denial and oppression. His weapon of choice: his ever-breathing pencils. Through his art, he explores the avenues of change.

Abedini’s work is personal and political. He creates familiar faces, hidden under traditional Islamic patterns and intertwined with Persian calligraphy. His work bridges Dada aesthetics and mathematical yet spiritually driven arrangements of Islamic art. It is a postmodern tale of fusions — of religion, culture and art from (Middle) East to West.

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His posters and books are exhibited all over the world. With his Sufi-like manner and his determined but mature voice, he shares his passion, dreams and hopes for future generations, in Iran and beyond.

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