• 23 Apr 2020

Visual Artist Maryam Shams invites us in the spirituality of movement as a poetry composed of lines and lines within her painting:

Vibrations 4 - 2017 © Maryam Shams

Vibrations 4 – 2017 © Maryam Shams

Her journey

From the age of five, when I first discovered the pencil, I felt like I was holding a magic wand. It became my most prized possession throughout my childhood years. After graduating from high school, I was admitted to the School of Graphic and Decorative Arts in Tehran. I later entered the Tehran University of Fine Arts competition, which I won. But my dream was not in Tehran: my dream was in Paris. I arrived in the French capital in September 1979 when Iran was in the midst of political upheaval and entered the the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Five years later, having graduated with honours in drawing, I joined  Abraham Hadad’s studio of lithography and silkscreen. Having achieved a Master’s degree in Art Theory at La Sorbonne, I trained as a decorator. Life is a continual learning process which I experience every day in my work.

Vibrations number 3 - 2019 © Maryam Shams

Vibrations number 3 – 2019 © Maryam Shams

Her artistic expression

As Hegelian theory denotes, I believe art to be the union of the sensible and the spiritual. It is my fascination with the beauty of the world that led me to seek the best way to express it. But while technique is indispensable, it cannot replace my spiritual perception of the world: I found myself questioning: how could I depict that which is invisible and which viewers cannot visually perceive? This question would spark years of research. If inspiration does not come from the outside, where could it come from? And by what technical means? Upon reading works such as Kandinsky’s “Concerning The Spiritual in Art”, I found that I was opened to my own “inner necessity”. I try to convey this spiritual ephemerality in each of my work through the inclusion of coloured and luminous materials.

At the École des Beaux-Arts, the subject of my final piece was “The circus”, through which I explored the effects of chiaroscuro and the representation of movement. I began to introduce colour to my work to create what I like to call ‘colour-matter’. The art of Tapies was a great source of inspiration for me at this time. Over the course of three years, I produced several works in-keeping with this theme. The next phase of my artistic progression was dominated by abstract expressionism, when colour and transparency became the true focus of my work. Overall, I would say that it is this very process of “action painting”, in which material and colour are paramount, which largely characterises my work. 

For several years I have been studying the effects of colour vibrations on the psyche, and the relationship between black and white. My techniques are relatively simple and my materials minimal: just paper and ink. These technical elements then tools through which, contrary to their simplicity, represent complex ideas. Vibration, movement, rhythms, all inspired by nature, are my current artistic stimuli. In a state of intense sensitivity, and spontaneity, I try to capture the elusive and the subtle in order to make the outer and inner elements of nature unite, thus arousing sensations and reflections in the spectator who, through their gaze, becomes a co-creator with the artist.

Networks – 2013 © Maryam Shams

Networks – 2013 © Maryam Shams

Her evolution

I think that, throughout my career, I have tried to embrace all the possibilities offered by a medium which is so concrete, so certain. Through each of its forms nests a panoply of potentialities. Thus, working at first in the most traditional and classical style, I moved on to a resolutely contemporary practice. Each period of investigation had a particular theme at its core. There was my period of fascination with drawing. Leonardo da Vinci inspired my obsession with line, Rembrandt with chiaroscuro, Millet with social preoccupations and representations of the sufferings of the working class; I thus created my own anthology of my favourite masters. The colours of the earth and its materials then became my tools for experimentation. Several years later, I wanted to use colour in a more aerial, eventful and transparent form. This was the beginning of a series of atmospheric interior landscapes. Then more graphic assemblages, collages, signs and symbols began to make their appearances. The ideas that crossed my mind led me to write my reflections on the canvas. Then, larger compositions would evolve, questioning me and testing my ability to deal with their large surfaces. The diptychs and triptychs take shape with the inner landscape as their theme, but this time in matter and with colourful contrasts. Colour gives way to purification. Black and white have set the stage for a new challenge, which is what I am exploring in my latest projects.

Networks – 2013 © Maryam Shams

Networks – 2013 © Maryam Shams

Her exhibitions

My first solo exhibition was just after my graduation from the ENSBA at the Grande Masse de Beaux-Arts in Paris. It marked the beginning of my artistic career, and was met with considerable success. This unexpected welcome and enthusiasm from the art world encouraged me to continue my artistic journey. Group exhibitions followed throughout France. Since the early 2000s, my work has been exhibited in countries all over the world, including the United States (Dallas and Washington), Europe (Sweden, Spain, Italy) and China (Beijing). Indeed, my solo exhibition at the Yellow House Gallery in Dallas facilitated my collaboration with Michael-Anne Harper, the gallery’s director, for several years. Given the global situation, all my exhibitions this year have unfortunately been cancelled and/or postponed.

Networks – 2013 © Maryam Shams

Networks – 2013 © Maryam Shams

Her relationship with Art-Trope

Aside from its economic and social disadvantages, such as the reluctance of potential buyers, the art market is favourable to only a minority of artists. Large institutions have historically based their decisions on the the needs of the art market, and the artists/works that it promotes. There is not, in my opinion, much hope or opportunity for artists who are not represented by a gallery. I have always tried to represent myself and my work on the international art market, in order to have more exposure. As an independent artist, logistical issues pose complications. The artist is supposed to organise everything for themselves, including communication with exhibition organisers, transportation of their works, insurance, travel, etc. That’s why I contacted Art-Trope: to rid myself of the logistical nightmares that were keeping me from my studio. As a team, we collaborate, sharing thoughts and ideas, and finding solutions and ways to develop my career. I really believe that Art-Trope can provide me with the support I need to better position myself within the art market, both in France and internationally.

Discover the Art-Trope profile of Visual Artist Maryam Shams here.

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