Our May laurel goes to an Iranian artist who reflects his culture’s mastery of wood inlay and crafts a story about standing up for the victimised.
When he was 17, Saeed Arzegan visited a wood carving (monabbat) exhibition of Master Abdolhamid Edalat-e Shiraz and was so inspired that he asked to become an apprentice. While learning the traditional skills, Arzegan was eager to experiment with new techniques. The particular technique of moarragh involves creating paintings from wood inlay.
In 2009, he began work on The Magic of Wood, which refers to a story of Imam Reza’s tenderness and compassion, “the guarantor of the gazelle”, which was originally painted by Mahmoud Farshchian. According to this story, a gazelle was being hunted in the desert and sought protection from Imam Reza, telling him that she had fawns to feed. He offered a guarantee to the hunter to enable the gazelle to feed her fawns before returning to be killed. One return, the hunter acknowledged the kindness and let the gazelle go. It was finished in 2015 and exhibited at the Sa’adabad Museum of Tehran in May 2016, then at the opening event of “Mashhad; The Cultural Capital of the Islamic World” exhibition which was held in January-February 2017.
The recent work Love Whisper took 320 hours from 590 pieces of wood. Arzegan travelled around Iran to find colourful woods including ebony wood, barberry, rosewood, oak, boxwood, acacia, sumac, orange, pistachio, Persian olive or Senjed, maple, Caucasian elm, apricot, yew, walnut, Persian silk tree, mangroves, grey mangrove, medlar, jujube, alder, carob tree, mesquite and Alborz oak. They were collected from the regions of Bandar Abbas, Minab, Qeshm, Jask and Chabahar in the South, Hyrcanian Forests of North and North West of the country and also from Birjand, Ferdows, Nayband, Kerman in the East as well as Saqez, Marivan and Avramanat in the West.