Seven Pavilions of Love

An exhibition of miniature paintings by Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh based on the epic Persian story by Nizāmī Ganjavi.

25 July – 24 November 2024

Seven Pavilions of Love, an exhibition of miniature paintings by Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh will take place at the Aga Khan Gallery, Kings Cross, Granary Sq, London, from Thursday 25 July to Sunday 24 November 2024.

This series of work is inspired by the Haft Paykar (The Seven Beauties), a romantic allegorical poem of the medieval period written by Persian poet Niẓāmī Ganjavī in 1197. The 1995 English translation by Julie Scott Meisami, referred to by the artist, focuses on the transformation of King Bahram from a worldly ruler dominated by earthly desires to becoming a wise ruler, as he re-emerges from the seven pavilions after hearing the stories of the Seven Princesses, with the understanding of love as the guiding force for justice and spiritual  enlightenment.

Farkhondeh has derived her drawing and painting practice from first principles to establish her methods, materials and techniques. She has conducted vigorous and thorough investigations of the authentic and original sources in Iran and London for making grounds and supports, dyeing paper; deriving pigments from natural plants, insects, earths, rocks and metals; observing their ‘alchemical’ ennoblement to make works of truth and beauty.

For stains and sizing of grounds she uses walnut, chestnut, pomegranate, saffron and aubergine. Her colour palette includes gold, silver, lapis lazuli, malachite, cadmium green, yellow ochre, raw sienna, vermillion, cinnabar, lead yellow, red ochre and burnt sienna; all ground and bound using gum Arabic before suspending them in water. For these works, the artist even created her own lead-based paint.

Each of the 14 paintings that make up the show are accompanied by calligraphic text, which are also illuminated. Farkhondeh travelled widely to learn from the highest-level practitioners of calligraphy, geometry and Islimi and continues to hone her ability with brush, pen and pencil, geometric analysis of patterns and proportioning of painting compositions. She approaches her work as a spiritual discipline which requires effort and hard work to ‘polish the mirror’ to achieve unity, harmony and beauty. The exhibition has an educational component and a film is being made revealing the techniques behind the paintings.


About the artist:

Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh is an Iranian artist based in London. Her work explores the disciplines of Persian poetry manuscripts, sacred geometry and Persian miniatures. She has lived a rich and adventurous life and has worked both as an academic and artist in Iran, America and Europe. For the last 20 years, Farkhondeh has regularly spent time living and studying under calligraphy masters in Iran. She was awarded the Jerwood Prize in 2011 for Islamic traditional art and continues to teach Islamic manuscript and Persian miniature at the Princes School of Traditional Art. Her body of work on Haft Paykar, the epic poem of Nizami, has been exhibited in London in 2016 and in Scotland in 2017. Her painting showing the stages of Reza Abbasi’s “seated man” is on permanent display art Albukary gallery, British Museum.