Art And Culture

Khosrow Khorshidi Searches for his Verdant Valley in Tehran

Khosrow Khorshidi Searches  for his Verdant Valley in TehranKhosrow Khorshidi Searches  for his Verdant Valley in Tehran

One needs not to be an artist to look beyond high-rise apartments and giant skyscrapers to realize that these hallmarks of modernity were once home to beautiful gardens and green pastures. Khosrow Khorshidi however has made his concern for the spoilage of Tehran’s environment come to life in his unique works of art at a newly opened exhibition. ‘How Verdant Was My Valley’, is the name of the new art show by a prominent artist who also is well-known among cineastes and theater-goers.

Khorshidi, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year, has been a lecturer at the University of Fine Arts since 1970 and considered one of the founders of entertainment set design and decoration major in Iranian universities. During his stay in Italy in the 60’s and 70’s, besides studying architecture he also became an apprentice to a famous Italian sculptor of that time. He received much acclamation for a book he published last year about the recent history of Tehran titled ‘Tehran in Those Days’.

  Once Upon a Time

‘How Verdant Was My Valley’ has a direct allusion to the Shemiranat Valley in north Tehran for which Khorshidi feels much affinity and nostalgia. He has allocated one section of the exhibit to the portrayal of the valley and the grandeur that it once held.

‘’Long back when I was a teenager Shemiranat Valley held a lot of excitement for me; I could not wait to go and caper among the orchards and lush gardens with roaring streams and brooks which in turn gave way to luxurious waterfalls … magnificent beauty,’’ he recalls.

The other section showcases the statues that Khorshidi has masterfully carved “to mourn the green city that ceases to be.”  But the exhibition is not of the kind to purchase pieces for the embellishment of a living room. The statues represent “a culture of rampaging fields and pastures to erect villas and high-rise offices.”

  Wood & Iron Symphony

The first array of statues is made of wood and iron: the two dichotomies symbolizing trees and buildings. Steel bars crossing trees conjure up images of building scaffolds and towers. One statue depicts a crucified tree flanked by candles that convey the ultimate elegy for the death of trees.

‘’It took me hours to find the tree barks to be used in my works and I was willing to pay any price for them and lose sleep to make my statues speak for the loss that had occurred,’’ Khorshidi told Shargh newspaper.  

Those losses, in Khorshidi’s words, include importing 18th and 19th century European design at the cost of ruining Iranian architecture. ‘’We demolished the serenity of Shemiranat with these constructions that left us nothing but strange and faceless structures,’’ Khorshidi bemoans. ‘’ After we chopped off hundred-year old trees we have to look at those heights and say wistfully ‘how verdant was my valley.’’

Another corner of the art show is devoted to figurines and statues of fictional and historical figures such as Don Quixote and the Roman gladiator which became the subject of the eponymous movie directed by Ridley Scott. As one architect puts it, by seeing the statues, one is reminded of Luigi Pirandello’s play ‘ Six Characters in Search of an Author’. ‘’ The personages appear to be asking their creator ‘ what have you done with us?’’’, the architect says.

  Greater Valley

Khorshidi says he is not “a backward looking person who wants to turn the clock back” to decades ago. ‘’We didn’t have to destroy a region that was the lung space of Tehran and bring this disaster upon ourselves; and that would have been possible with prober urban planning and design with respect to our nature as well,’’ he says.

For Khorshidi, the main thing is to put his valley in setting not as a mere art show but rather as a call to action to preserve so much which is at stake. ‘’A better future can be sought only when our heritage remains sacrosanct.’’   

The exhibition is being held at Hana Gallery and will be open to visitors until March 19. It is located at 19 Jahantab St. Kaveh Boulavard, Dolat Avenue, Tehran. The visiting hours are from 4pm to 8pm.