Charlie Calder-Potts Exhibition 2018

Thursday January 25, 2018

“The Land I Stepped in”, Tales from Persia

Private View: Sunday 4th February 2018, 11am – 4pm.
The Exhibition continues until Saturday 24th February, 5pm.

Modern day Iran, according to Western media, is a place shrouded in secrecy. A threat. Potentially even an enemy. From across the waters we would assume a perspective of the UK is painted with the same blackened brush. When the British Arts Council gave me the opportunity to work on a project that would encourage relations and ideas between artists across cultures and countries, there was no doubt in my mind as to where I should go. In January 2017 I hopped on a plane to Tehran to collaborate with renowned Persian poet Rosa Jamali; our mission was to rework the Shahnameh from a contemporary perspective.

If you have never heard of the Shahnameh you are not alone…unless of course, you are Persian. In Iran not to know author Ferdowsi and this epic is the equivalent to a Brit never having heard of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Written in the 10th century and containing 50 thousand rhyming couplets, these stories have been quoted and painted for generations. It is the world’s longest poem ever written by a single poet; it took Ferdowsi 30 years to write.

Charlie Calder-Potts - The Ever Turning Sky
‘The Ever Turning Sky’

In it Ferdowsi tells the history of the Persian Empire from the creation of the world up until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. The work is of central importance to Persian culture, not only as a literary masterpiece but also as a symbol of Persian heritage and identity. Upon arriving in Tehran I was overwhelmed by its continued presence. Quotes and graffiti showing characters and stories from the Shahnameh are found throughout the city. I was also overwhelmed by the genuine and relentless welcome I received from every person I encountered; this was not the hostile attitude the media would have had me believe.

The history Ferdowsi records in his epic poem is a combination of both fact and fiction; this in itself parallels the very pretext of the Arts Council project. How little we have changed over the last thousand years with history still recorded and reported in a way that is sensitive to national pride. With a media prone to exaggeration a sensationalised story can often be used to more readily engage and influence an intended audience. The result warps the contemporary history that reaches the masses; a means of controlling public opinion with a willingness not only to misrepresent but also to continually damage national relations in the process.

It is not only the form of narrative used by Ferdowsi that is so relevant but also the characters and themes tackled in his stories. The Shahnameh addresses the struggles and contradictions of human nature, the most prevalent of these being our struggle with ourselves and our ability to deceive our own mind even when the truth is laid plainly before us. To illustrate this timeless narrative and the fact that its themes are so applicable today, I have taken people from the here and now on the streets of Iran and placed them within the context of this Persian epic. Rosa’s Farsi poetry becomes the voice of each story just as Ferdowsi’s couplets are cited in the Persian miniature tradition. The universal nature of humanity is reflected in the cyclical nature of history; regardless of culture and faith.

Charlie Calder-Potts 2018
© Fosse Gallery Fine Art