Iranian spirit and Islamic soul governs almost all his artworks. The Iranian aspect of his works owes mostly to the art of ***tazhib*** (illumination), calligraphy, type of raw materials used, as well as the technique applied for their antiquity.

And the Islamic part of it can be evident in their subject matters. That is why most of the artworks of Mehrdad Shoghi Haghdoost are also specifically appealing to foreign spectators.

He says, "At the exhibitions held in Kuwait, Dubai, Switzerland, and Vancouver, most of the artworks were received well by the foreign visitors. They were very fascinated to see them for the first time, uttering they had the characteristics of the eastern-Iranian art. Their feelings toward the works were identical with what I had in mind from the outset. It was very interesting and gratifying to see that I was able to convey the meaning of the works to them."

Shoghi is a graduate in graphic design and is notably familiar with the art of painting. Amid this, it is calligraphy that is particularly manifest in his works. On why such is true he says, "Before the university I had some hands-on experience in calligraphy, painting, illumination and repairing of ancient artifacts. At the university it was calligraphy and writing that mostly got my attention. I did several projects on the subject, which later had an influence on my interest. One of these projects was the design and the work I did on the Muscat Great Mosque in Oman."

His deep love and lore for calligraphy was so intense that it inspired him to invent his own unique style, named "Mehr" calligraphy. On how he reached to such point in his professional life he says, "While repairing ancient calligraphy works, it was Kuffic calligraphy that got most of my attention. Kuffic calligraphy is the mother of all the other Islamic calligraphy. In fact I tried to go back to the main roots and start from the outset. I started working on the styles of the first through the third century A.H. My final year project was also on the same subject. I did start the project looking for guidelines from a hand-written script believed to be that of Imam Ali (AS). But then I did some changes in the style. Such technique inspired me to invent a new font and a new style of calligraphy which I later named "Mehr Calligraphy".

Some of the embossed artworks of Shoghi are also done on precious stones such as agate and glass. Sadly such style is no longer appealing in Iran. He says, "It is with great pain to see that such is true because the history of such art goes back to the second millenium B.C. In those days they used to make stamps and family symbols on precious stones likewise."

It is absorbing to say that many Tehrani commuters begin their journey with the calligraphy of "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful", written on several underground stations in the city. His many other projects also include 1998 finishing of the final sheet of the tile work design for the mihrab of Muscat Great Mosque in Oman.

His many exhibitions include: 2002 Group Exhibition, Ziba Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada. 2002 Solo Exhibition, Bushehri Gallery, Kuwait. 2002 Solo Exhibition, Aryan Art Gallery, Tehran. 2002 Calligraphy Exhibition, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts. 2002 Group Exhibition, Royal Mirage, Kuwait. 2001 Group Exhibition, Le Palais Oriental, Montreux, Switzerland.

Q: We can sense the soul of an artist by just looking at his works, yet calligraphy has its own rules. For instance, there is only one rule for writing the letter of "N". Amid this, each work has its own merits. How is a calligrapher able to transfer his soul to his materials -- keeping in mind such rules?

A: Calligraphy has its own unique parameters. Some see it as an industry, others as an art and some think of it as repetition with creativity. Such argument has been going on for ages. Yet we cannot talk about the issue in simple terms. Besides, I do not like to enter into such discussion either, as what I do is completely different. Traditional calligraphy has its own unique religious characteristics and it cannot be said that repetitiveness is a proof for its lack of creativity. In some of the ancient artworks, which have remained to this day, we can still witness a unique art that existed in those days. Though repeating the same style decreased the fascination for the art, we are still witnessing many interesting events in such art.

I can only talk about the style of calligraphy that I work on. That is, the style expresses feelings and senses of mine about what I am writing about. If what I write has a soft, poetic or even a harsh meaning, it will quickly become evident in the composition. The basic of my calligraphy is Kuffic and the style is yet to be realized to its full potential. I always try to express my inner standpoint of what I am writing about. Many of my subjects are about the verses of Qoran. This is because I first started to work with Qoranic calligraphy. I think some kind of nostalgia and inner attraction took me to such point, otherwise I never had a previous plan to be where I am now. In fact, most of the time I was only doing commercial materials. It was only later that all my orders and clients changed dramatically.

What I created after these years had two specific roles; One was the outer form of the letters and the other the inner meanings. Art critics also point out these two critical aspects in my works. In fact my work does not have a pre-arranged form dictated by someone else. I always try to let events inspire me and not do a job because of an order or a hasty decision. Even if someone is really interested, somehow I will try to convince him to get one of the existing works of mine, for instance the tableaus hanging from several underground stations in Tehran. These were some of the works that were based on inner inspirations and special circumstances from the outset. I am still convinced that such method is totally right. It is better than limiting myself to some of the things that will only put the very truth of my feelings under question. It will make the work appear artificial.

Q: How do you envisage the current situation of Iranian arts?

A: Iranian arts have experienced several different phases in recent years. We have seen new talents in the field with many things to voice. At the same time there have been some deviations and I think such is actually needed for creativity in art. Even if the new methods are limited and weak, we all have to work and it is the time and the spectators that will decide which ones will be immortal.

Q: What do you mean by deviations?

A: I mean the influence of commercial clients on the artists.

Q: Do you mean ordered works?

A: Working for an order is not a problem. Any artist has basic needs in life, but the important point is the extent of the interference of unhealthy taste on a work of art. For instance we have witnessed several times such notion in Iranian painting. Iranian painting or miniature is far from its original goal at this time. But this does not matter as art has to picture the present day circumstances likewise. If an artist does not come up with a proper work it has to be because of the circumstances. That is why we have to consider such circumstances once evaluating his work. This is also true about our music.

Q: What do you say about exalted calligraphy?

A: I believe that Hamid Ajami has done a great job on such method. But its usage has to be meticulously planned and decided. Some of the fans of such style use it anywhere they see fit, but they have to realize that using it on book covers, advertisements et al is not correct at all. Movement and sharpness in exalted calligraphy can easily create a harsh approach in its viewers, though I am convinced that it is still a beautiful style.

Q: How do you see the potential of Persian writing in creating artistic works?

A: Contrary to what is believed by some students at universities, who think that Persian writing is not suitable for advertising, it has a lot of potential to start with. Our writing has fundamental differences with Latin writing. Latin words come separately but our words are connected. Such contortion is in fact one of the advantages of the style. Sadly such misunderstanding still persists in Persian writing.

On the other hand, such contortion is never considered in the creation of artistic or commercial works. And even if that is the case, it is never done properly. Recently there have been numerous innovations by the new generation of artists that seems somehow promising. This means that forms and styles forced to us through decades of negligence are gradually being revised. It has been for ages since we needed such fundamental revisions.

Q: There are very few sharp or primary colors in your works. Any specific reason?

A: I always attempt to use rich colors because of the good experience I have in repairing miniature works, illumination and calligraphy. I have mostly had to deal with ancient works of art and that is why rich colors, which represent antiquity, are plenty in my own original works. The ink I use is often brown. I also paint the papers with tea or colors that create a sense of antiquity. Thence, I never use sharp or primary colors.

Q: We have a country with rich culture and civilization. Therefore, the need to preserve its ancient artworks comes as a must. Do you think those working in the field of preservation of ancient artworks are really doing their job?

A: It is sad to say that the preservation of the artworks in our country is not done with great precision, as there are only very few specialized individuals in the field. The Cultural Heritage Organization has all the means necessary for investment in the field. It can employ art experts for training talented individuals, yet sadly many of these experts are being ignored and isolated. At the moment there are very few people working in the field. Only with proper support from the government, will the art of preservation have ever have a chance to hold on.

Q: What do you think of computer software in art?

A: Computer is very influential for art as a modern tool, and I think it has more positive points than negative ones. I heard some artists have started to fight back, despite the fact that we can still bank on it. We are living in the 21st century and thence our art should also reflect the aspects of the modern times. If as a miniaturist I only paint in the style of "Heart", it will not be flattering, because my works will only reflect the social, political and moral circumstances of the ancient times. An artist should try to reflect the issues of his contemporary world. He has to be in the first place an honest individual. Otherwise whatever he creates will be questioned and marginalized.

Q: How did you react when you heard that 16 tableaus from Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts were put on sale because of their unsuitability for exhibition in Iran?

A: I am of the opinion that precious artworks created in any specific time and place are part of the cultural heritage of the country. Therefore, instead of decreasing the number of such works, we have to increase them. They should be kept with more respect and care because of their commercial and cultural values.

Both the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Cultural Heritage Organization have enough budget to purchase such artworks and there is no excuse to sell them if they are somewhat not suitable for exhibition. It is sad to put the cultural heritage of a country for sale.

Q: Any final words?

A: I hope that in the years ahead the art and the artist will finally find their true status in our society. I do not mean they should be honored and praised but that they should have the opportunity to better themselves in a suitable environment. Only then will there be works of artistic quality. We should invest in the Iranian art. We should also avoid investing in the grounds that have no gain for us whatsoever. Such attitude can help us eliminate many misunderstandings that currently exist against our culture and society because of the Western press and media. Things have changed and there is no place for cheap talks and promises.

News Code 45

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