Mehr (affection, 2014) by master of Iranian calligraphy painting, Mohammad Ehsaei, perfectly combines a refined, poetic sensibility with an unrivaled rigor. Rhythmic parallel stretched letters are flowing on the canvas surface; strikingly manifesting the union of form and content. The green contour effectively emphasizes this free-flowing character. The rebellious sharp green, adorning the corners of the sea of affection, marks the most expressive aspect of the piece. The extension of the color beyond the letter formats marks a sort of defiance; an unconformity to predetermined conventions. Such defiance is also precedent in Persian traditional painting, as seen in Sultan Muhammad’s work in Second Tabriz School, which generally disregards the rectangular programmed drawing formats.
The texture of the golden background creates a sense of depth and immense space which makes the words resonate in the space. The word ‘affection’ is repeated again and again expanding to reach the edges of the canvas. The eyes of the letter ‘H’ act as a braided chain, anchoring the composition in a vertical axis in the center of the canvas. The unique quality of texture in Ehsaei’s work is always in par with rigorous design.
Ehsaei’s precisely measured letter design has its roots in his devotion to Iranian calligraphy aesthetic traditions. His iconography is always restricted to scripture, with no reference to other ornamental or folk figures, as seen in, for instance, Saqqakhaneh School. He is loyal to Iranian aesthetic traditions both in form and in method, employing breathtaking meticulousness in designing each letter. Such precision endows his calligraphy with the perfection of a jewel. To this we might add his expertise in graphic design, which altogether makes his art totally inimitable.
Although Ehsaei’s artistic spirit retains long-lasting standards, it nevertheless keeps a sense of freshness. He persistently avoids repetition to constantly challenge the viewer, while also inviting challenge the piece. That’s why he partially deconstructs his established norms every so often to add up a new innovative aspect. This is evident here in transfiguring his celebrated letter design and the unexpected brilliant light green.
The appreciation of Ehsaei’s work, however, might not be limited to its pictorial perfection and aesthetic qualities. He personally considers his works as silent cries, a shout with no signifying agency. To him, the recent dark, limited palettes, as well as the appearance of some symbolic colors, are a subsequent of his country’s recent socio-political events. Ehsaei is well aware of the magical quality of letter design and its effect on the viewer. To him, Farsi scriptures, including Naskh and Thuthuth, are supreme in this persuasive quality. His contribution to the present status of Iranian calligraphy-painting is unequaled. His work based on traditional qualities as grace, contrast, and independence, makes a towering standard both for making and viewing Iranian art.