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Colours of Agony and Hope

An exhibition of Pariyoush Ganji’s latest paintings was recently held in Tehran. Over the past few decades, she has established a reputation as one of the most highly regarded artists in Iran. There were indications of her remarkable gifts from early childhood, and she won her first prize in an art competition in Tehran when she was only 12. At high school, too, her abilities were recognized by her art teacher who encouraged her to enter the School of Fine Arts, where she studied under the supervision of two renowned miniaturists. She also had a great role model- her father who was a master textile designer and one of the first craftsmen to work on textile printing in Iran.

After receiving her secondary school diploma, Pariyoush left for London where she continued her studies in several prestigious art institutions. Finally, she graduated from the Chelsea School of Fine Arts in 1973, with her thesis on the original Persian designs of the Safavid tiles of Isfahan. After a year, during which she freelanced selling her designs to various textile printing factories, she travelled to Germany where she was employed as a senior designer in a major carpet and textile factory. A year later she went to France, where she studied at the famous École des Beaux Arts in Paris until 1976 when she returned to Iran.

During the following years, she collaborated with the Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children, helped curate an exhibition of children's paintings, and illustrated a book. Meanwhile, she had married and had two children before the family went to stay abroad for several years. After moving back to Iran in 1986, she took up teaching in a number of art schools and universities in Tehran. She was also invited to Japan for six months to research the influence of Sassanid patterns on the visual art of the Far East through the Silk Road. It was during this visit that she learned the traditional Japanese art of painting with ink, a technique which she applied later in some of her paintings.

In fact, different personal experiences and observations in various periods of her life have greatly inspired and influenced her work during that particular stage. She has always been immensely sensitive to the events and the ambience around her. Faceless figures appear in her paintings at a time when many professional, educated people suddenly lost their positions and had to take up menial jobs. In periods when women were particularly subjected to oppression, they are depicted sulking, turning their backs, or covering their faces with their hands. Strong colours of red and black confined in a rigid frame coincide with the period of the closing down of Iranian newspapers. However, there is always hope, manifested as a ray of light poking through layers of darkness, or windows opening onto the horizon.
Pariyoush Ganji has had numerous individual and group exhibitions in various countries in Europe, Middle East, Central Asia and the USA. In this multimedia report she takes us to see some of her paintings, whilst describing the circumstances that inspired and influenced her work at different periods in her varied and intensely interesting life.

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