‘Half Shabahang Half Siyavash‘
In the video game industry, there is something called a Game Engine, which is a software framework that provides tools and features that game developers need, including visual elements, sound effects, logics and physics to produce their video games by putting them together and designing each level. Shabahang Tayyari’s manner in generating images is something like a game designing method. He collects various and sometimes unrelated ideas, forms and methods which have not necessarily come out of his own practice to build a structure that makes him able to create images out of those materials. So, we can say Tayyary is like a game developer who has designed his own game engine and is now developing his games. But in this case, the game engine is the artist’s vision and the final product is his paintings which are gateways to the artist’s world.
Shabahang Tayyari’s recent game Siyâvash’s Teardrop is an abstract portrayal of the world after Siyâvash’s death which has been depicted as a world full of pearls, tulips, flames, waves and boundaries but sinking into utter depravity!
“In a wildfire, no matter if dry or wet, everything will burn eventually.” It’s an Iranian saying that means no matter if something is good or evil, in a chaos their treatment will be the same. In this sense, if we consider flames and waves as what is dry and what is wet, in Siyâvash’s Teardrop good and evil may burn together. but the point is they never unify as the artist strictly keeps boundaries between all forms and elements including fire flames and sea waves in the paintings, and this is the game rule in Siyâvash’s Teardrop. Accordingly, we see in the paintings that fire flames and sea waves have been shuffled to the point that they got lost in each other, as if they still remained differentiable.
If you are not familiar with Iranian culture, you may wonder who Siyâvash is and what these teardrops and all the other stuff are about! Siyâvash was a legendary Iranian prince from the earliest days of the Iranian Empire and a major figure in the national epic of Iran where the story of his life has been narrated by Ferdowsi. The story of Siyâvash is the story of an innocent prince who defends his chastity at all costs which eventually leads him to a self-imposed exile and unjustly execution. Ancient Iranians used to consider fritillaries as a species of tulips which are upside-down. Therefore, we call fritillaries upside-down tulips in Farsi. There is a mythological tale behind it explaining how tulips went upside-down. According to that tale, a tulip witnessed the death of Siyâvash and after witnessing what happened to him, it went upside-down to mourn Siyâvash’s fate and that was the moment fritillaria came to existence, or when in fact, the upside-down tulip appeared.
Now, since we have an idea about how these historical and mythological references relate to each other, let’s see what else we can find in Tayyari’s paintings! In most of the paintings, we see pieces of CDs and DVDs that have been cut into rectangular shapes which have then been pasted on tulips; hinting at the viewer to consider them as the memories of the tulips which may contain what they have witnessed! Tayyari informs us about the content of these discs through the titles of his artworks which you can find in the exhibition catalogue.
Two identical grey tulips with six pearls as stigmas. Digital Video Disc contains 37 KB of a note file. It is a four pages of an Iranian fisherman’s diary in 1991 at Persian gulf explaining how the bombs scared the fishes away and they couldn’t catch any that day. A black tulip and a black pearl beside a lying down tulip with three black stigmas. Digital Video Disc contains an image of the artist sitting down in his studio thinking about the past he was not even born, thinking about the future when he is not gonna exist.
An angelless arch. Digital Video Disc contains 342MB of puppies jpg taken by their owners in front of Notre Dame entrance.
Black & yellow pearl as velvet tulips stigmas. Digital Video Disc contains 360 MB of a video recorded by my friend England showing a cathedral burning to the ground.
Dark sunrise. Digital Video Disc contains 720 MB of a video file showing the artist digging a hole at Loot desert in 2018.
To understand the artist’s approach, I offer to imagine the tulips in front of the scenes Tayyari escribes through the titles of his artworks. These tulips turn upside-down every time they face those scenes. Then consider the paintings as the evidence of the act of witnessing by the tulips.
These titles and the scenery I asked to imagine may seem meaningless and unrelated at first sight, but after pondering the context, the relationship between the titles, the images, mythical stories and historical references will be revealed to show us the artist’s pessimistic perspective toward those historical and mythical references which he brings to the present time and connects them to the current state.
Words: Ali Alemzade Ansari
All images courtesy of the artist & Balice Hertling