The word “Heech” that Tanavoli uses in a variety of astonishing ways has for a long time inspired him to create art. The word that is comprised of three letters in Persian symbolizes a kind of inconsistency in the past and a sense of being meaningless in an unpleasant present. The artist himself refers to Heech as a reaction to his environment.
What enhances his fascination with the word is philosophy and mysticism. As he says, one of the reasons for his fascination with the word lies in the fact that it resembles the human figure. Although the word imbues sorrow and melancholy, Tanavoli’s sculptures are jolly and refreshing. Standing, sitting, or reclining, Tanavoli’s Heech sculptures evoke the visual nature of Persian calligraphy in a sentimental way. Far from any attempt to create meanings or calligraphic forms, Heech tends to be figurative, twisting and turning with only three Persian letters. While “He” can be considered the two eyes of the sculpture, “Ye” and “Che” form its graceful coquettish figure. It seems that Tanavoli has been the first Iranian artist who disregarded aesthetic and calligraphic aspects of letters to highlight their formal quality.
To Tanavoli, Heech is a graceful shape and the more it loses its calligraphic quality the closer it gets to a figure. Such works of Tanavoli cross over the curved form of Persian calligraphy to create enticing sculptures, liberating forms from mere words in an excellent romantic manner. The word “nothing” resonates; a conscious parody on a theme only the appearance of which is “nothing”.
Heech becomes everything in Tanavoli’s hands. This interesting flexible Heech assumes a variety of shapes. It can be either so small as to be fitted on a ring or a monumental sculpture. It is sometimes made of solid bronze, but also made of fiberglass in bright colors at times. Tanavoli’s Heech sculptures express his thoughts free from any words. Despite being “nothing”, his sculptures are “everything”, showing his list for life.
The Heech collection is known to be a major illustrious period in Tanavoli’s professional career, enjoying a remarkable market both in Iran and abroad. A large fiberglass sculpture by the artist was sold for $149,000 at the Christie’s Auction, 2016.