Art And Culture

Pouyan’s Persian Miniatures in London Gallery

Pouyan’s Persian Miniatures in London Gallery
Pouyan’s Persian Miniatures in London Gallery

Copperfield Gallery in London presented the first UK solo exhibition of Shahpour Pouyan, an Iranian-origin artist from September 23 till November 13.

The collection explored the concept of parallel trajectories that exist in history; things concealed under an overwhelming narrative of power and reform, tumult and prosperity.

The display was a series of Persian miniatures “stripped of their central figures in an attempt to coax the unspoken from their backgrounds,” Honaronline reports.

Pouyan has reworked classic miniature masterpieces since 2008. Using digital and manual manipulation, he removes all people from the artworks and then painstakingly recreates their landscapes.

In the 16 new works for the exhibition, Pouyan highlights the superiority of tradition and culture over the freedom of the individual.  He attempts to shed light on what is left unseen in Persian miniatures.

His work is a commentary about power, domination and possession through the force of culture.  His interest lies in singling out particular objects whose images captivate him, art critics say.

A solo exhibition in Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Dubai (2014) and group exhibitions Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kochi, India (2014), Untitled Art Fair, Florida (2014), and the Tower of Babel Project exhibition in Basel, Switzerland (2014) are some of his most recent artistic activities.

“Pouyan’s hooves are symbols for the aspiration of power, lonely beings with vain attempts at grandeur which are faintly ridiculous provoking mixed feelings of pity and contempt.  The works draw their inspiration from Iranian miniatures with references to the cow as the symbol of power in the ancient cultures of Sumer, Babylon, Iran and Hinduism, emphasizing the superego of male aggression throughout the centuries,” says an article on the website


Pouyan, 35, has participated in several international residencies including the International Cite Des Arts, Paris, the Pegasus Art Foundation, Hyderabad, India, and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York, (March 2014). Further, he won the Finalist and Second Art Cycle Prize in the US (2013) and prize for Pegasus Art Foundation residency and workshop in Rock Art Gallery, Hyderabad (2011).

He holds a master’s of fine arts degree in New Forms from Pratt Institute of New York and an MFA degree in painting, from the Tehran University of Art. He recently completed an MFA in Integrated Practices and New Forms at Pratt Institute, New York.

Born in Isfahan, he currently shuttles between New York and Tehran.

Between 2007 and 2009 Pouyan taught art history and the history of Persian Architecture at Science and Culture University, Tehran. His work has also been included in publications produced both in and out of Iran and is part of many prominent private collections. The permanent collection of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art also has his works.

The rework of a 16th century Persian miniature – entitled ‘God Sets the Course for the Ship and Not the Captain’ was the spotlight of Pouyan’s exhibits at the London gallery’s ‘History Travels at Different Speeds’ exhibition.

This diminutive work is one of a series of revisited Persian miniatures. He sees a bleak metaphor for the recent plight of refugees fleeing to Europe in the piece’s colors. “Silver was used to paint water. But the destiny of silver is to oxidize, to blacken. People are putting their lives into the hands of traffickers, who put the boats on autopilot and jump ship. The ships travel west with no captain or crew, but packed full of believers, literally entrusting their destiny to God,” the Guardian quoted Pouyan as saying.