Iranian artist

Farhad Ostovani was born in 1950 in the town of Lahijan in northern Iran. He attended university in Tehran, but in 1974 left the country to study in France, at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Ostovani typically draws or paints simple subjects - fruit, trees, flowers, empty landscapes - but goes beyond representation to evoke a powerful meditative quality, a contemplation of time, distance, nostalgia and exile.

His paintings of trees focus on a close-up of the trunk, seeking not to capture the entire tree, but only to render exactly a small section. It's a strange case of not being able to see the wood for the trees where the partial view is all that can be directly perceived; the tree as a whole is beyond the grasp of the artist and must be inferred or imagined by the viewer.

As well as trees and flowers, he has produced a short series depicting grapes changing from a lush ripeness to a withered rottenness, which is remarkable both in its sense of time passing and in its attention to greengrocery. Often he paints in shades of grey, but when he choses to use colour it seems that bit more vivid and bright than life, making tiny objects flare into importance in shining purples and browns and golds.

Another series of works came from a 2002 invitation by the Rembrandthuis Museum in Amsterdam to produce landscapes of the Waterland region around Ransdorp to the north of the Dutch capital. This area had been painted by Rembrandt van Rijn 350 years before, but Ostovani overlays the countryside with his own vision, and his obsession with the horizon, with what lies beyond. As with his other landscape work, the images vary in degrees of abstraction - some in detailed naturalism, others reducing the land and sky to two blocks of grey reminiscent of Mark Rothko - but the more detail he strips away, the more your gaze is drawn beyond the picture, over the horizon, to a place he cannot paint.

Information in this writeup comes in part from the exhibition of his work at the Rembrandthuis Museum, Amsterdam, from April to June 2003; online material on Ostovani is minimal even if you know Dutch and Farsi (personally I've tiny Dutch and no Persian). However, the first link contains a number of images.

  • "Only Trees: Paintings by Farhad Ostovani". The Iranian. 2000. (October 14, 2003)
  • "Farhad Ostovani". Galeries.NL. 2003. (October 14, 2003)
  • "Projectbeschrijving Ostovani". Rembrandthuis Museum website. 2003. (October 14, 2003)