Visual charm and historic mysterious atmosphere in the work of Massoud Arabshahi is presented along with a contemporary significance. This significance is revealed through symbolic lines and codes on a dark background. This historic cryptography is evident even in the choice of grey background. He often utilizes symbolism and a kind of mythological imagery to combine the past and present in his huge elaborate works. Indeed, richness of Arabshahi’s works is rooted in his knowledge of the relationship between painting, architecture, symbol and the subject. Although the diverse motifs that Arabshahi uses in his works are basically abstract, he sometimes exploits figure-like motifs in his work. The abstract work on display makes use of minimalized lines and composition to present an expressive language.
The works of Arabshahi can be divided into three categories in terms of their components. The first group includes archetypes such as trees, the shining sun, and semi-cuneiform writings; in the second group, circles, squares, curves, spirals, and plaques are mostly used; mathematical symbols, arrows, architectural plans, figures, and intertwining lines belong to the third group. Works of the first two groups are created on canvas, but works of the third group are on aluminum sheets. The work on display belongs to the third category. Intersecting vertical and horizontal lines provoke the curiosity of the spectators, like an old map, to enter the world that the artist has created. In fact, the key to interpretation the work lies within the work itself.
Over several decades of activity, Massoud Arabshahi has explored ancient cultures in his work. Explicit depiction of indigenous motifs of Mesopotamia, ancient Iran, or even Iran during the Islamic period, is evident in his work, while he renders a modern interpretation of them on the canvas every now and then. Despite the fact that many art historians affiliate Arabshahi with the Saqqakhana movement, we can hardly find any consistency between his works and the style of the Saqqakhana School. Arabshahi is perhaps the only Saqqakhana artist who makes no use of religious calligraphy and motifs in his work. In fact, his association with the Saqqakhana movement is more a coincidence rather than a historic truth. Perhaps a display of his works in the Saqqakhana exhibition in 1977 accounts for such a coincidence.
Pictures of wasteland and mysterious landscape inspired early abstract paintings of Arabshahi, affecting him during his childhood. His work later changed to recurring writings that had a unique visual abstract modern language, intelligible writings with a secret eternal wisdom. Works of this period either evoke a breeze in the plain or raindrops in the bright light. Unending brushstrokes produce elegant compositions. Arabshahi started creating abstract architectural designs and monuments in the mid-1970s, abstract works of old structures, indistinct designs, and architectural forms. These compositions are mysterious and convey an aura of silence and awe.
A very similar work of the same size belonging to the same period was sold for $277,000 at the Christie’s Auction in April 2008.