“I thought to myself: if it is true that every person has a star in the sky, mine must be distant, dim, and absurd. Perhaps I never had a star.”
(Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl)
What led you to use Sadegh Hedayat’s , “The Blind Owl” as a basis for these new works?
I read The Blind Owl when I was a teenager in Iran. I perhaps read it because it was banned in Iran, and perhaps also because my parents insisted it is forbidden to read, without giving any good reasons. Of course, what does a teenager do when presented by a forbidden act? She or he seeks it out. I am not sure if I truly understood the book or really found out what the big deal was then. I was just happy to partake in a forbidden act, which made it magical.I came across the book a couple years ago again, which brought back a lot of memories. This time, I reread the book as an adult and having gone through a recent personal loss, saw the book in a different light. My work is usually text based and I wanted to make my own interpretation of this book and give it an aesthetic and visual portrayal.
I read you used the following phrase: “I write only for my shadow which is cast on the wall in front of the light. I must introduce myself to it,” as a basis for these works. Can you share a small paragraph from the book that influenced you, or perhaps you made frequent reference to?
This quote has been used repeatedly in a number of my works in The Blind Owl series. I have also used the entire book in two separate works.There are many quotes and symbolic references in this book that are so expressive and portray the sense of alienation and isolation to perfection. This book reads very much like poetry.My next favorite phrase is,“I thought to myself: if it is true that every person has a star in the sky, mine must be distant, dim, and absurd. Perhaps I never had a star.”
The last time we spoke (in 2012), we discussed the Ritual Series and the use of calligraphy in your works; The Blind Owl series are so different and fresh. I don’t feel any sadness or heaviness associated with the famous book. It gives it new meaning. What do these works represent for you specifically?
The Ritual Imprint series are about the act of prayers and rituals confronting the question of spirituality and faith. In Ritual Imprint series, I brought the existing calligraphy, shapes and forms directly from the prayer stones to paper by a rubbing technique to create the work.
In The Blind Owl series, I have taken one single quote and the entire book as the foundation of the work, interpreted in many different ways and materials. I tried to give a visual voice to the book in as many ways as I could, especially since it is understood that the author felt no hope for his voice to be heard – that might be a common feeling among his readers.As much as The Blind Owl is about youth and death, I see both motifs in his writing as natural progression of life. They represent excitement, sadness, finality and beauty all at the same time.
I thought the plexiglass and Pattern pieces contrasted with copper are really interesting; they both have a fun element at first glance but eventually they do draw the eye. They become quite hypnotic… if I can say that. Can you talk about the specific materials you used here?
In the Pattern, I used pens and copper on paper. I deconstructed the quote into their single letters. The Blind Owl is a very Middle Eastern tale and I wanted to give the letters a very Middle Eastern feel by using Islamic patterns. The letters are forcing themselves or are led to leave the pages, conveying a sense of alienation. In the plexiglass work, I wrote the entire book on layers of plexiglass sheets and placed them in a box. The book reads to me as claustrophobic and tomb like and I tried to convey that feeling with this work.
Were there similarities in the actual making of The Blind Owl compared to The Ritual Series? Is the use of repetition a foundation for you or would you say it is new each time?
In The Ritual Imprint Series, I tried by layering and repetition to portray the ritualistic act of prayer in one’s practice of faith.In The Blind Owl book, repetition is Sadegh Hedayat’s style of writing, which was one more element among many that I was drawn to in this book. I find his repetition very poetic and repetition is the foundation of all my work.
Which work in the series did you create first?
Untitled #2 (Purple) was the first in the series. My attraction with the book began with the quote and, it took a life of its own after that.
Has completing the series given you new meaning and insight into Hedayat’s book?
Most definitely, now that I have lived with this book for about two years as an adult. The book is not the forbidden fruit that I experienced as a young person. I have lived life and gone through enough peaks and valleys in my life to read the book with a different insight. I believe this book can have different meanings to different readers, depending on what you are experiencing in your life. That is the genius of this book. It is said: it is like having a conversation with one’s mind.
Which other Persian literary figures have inspired you?
Using Persian literature is a very common practice in my work. For example: Omar Khayyam, Frough Farokhzad and now The Blind Owl.
Interview by Nina Mahdavi
Credits: The Third Line
Pouran Jinchi’s ‘The Blind Owl’ is currently being exhibited at The Third Line gallery (Dubai),
September 18 – October 24.
All images courtesy of The Third Line & the artist.
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