Fereydoun Ave, Rostam in the Dead of Winter, 2009, Mixed media and -print on paper, 75 x 110cm.

Rostam, the Strongman, as the Persian Season Changes to Winter

Fereydoun Ave, Rostam in the Dead of Winter, 2009, Mixed media and -print on canvas, 100 x 150cm.

Fereydoun Ave, Rostam in the Dead of Winter, 2009, Mixed media and -print on canvas, 100 x150cm.


B 21 Art Gallery
Al Quoz 1
0097 1 (0)4 3403965
Rostam in the Dead of Winter
September 29-October 22, 2009

Entitled Rostam in the Dead of Winter, this collection of mixed-media work by Iranian artist Fereydoun Ave portrays the pre-Islamic wrestling hero Rostam, a character drawn from the Persian poet Ferdowsi’s epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings). Throughout the works, we find Rostam wandering amidst a foreboding and uncharted territory of rapacious hyenas and vultures. It is a marked departure from Ave’s iconic series exhibited at the Barbican in 2001, Rostam in Late Summer, in which the champion wrestler is immersed in a lavish bloom of flowers and fruit. It is fair to say that Ave’s state of mind has fundamentally changed.

When Ave made Rostam in Late Summer, the artist was paying homage to Persian tradition and a particular fondness for the past; the wrestler gloriously embodying these cherished values. Now, in the Dead of Winter series, Ave dwells on his country’s present political, social and cultural realities, employing his old symbolic hero to maintain some distance from the quotidian. In Ave’s own words: "This series is about dying and resurrection; Rostam for me personifies the chivalrous connected with the macho-mystic. He is the Lancelot, the Hercules. This chivalry is dying in the land of Rostam. Rostam now wanders in a twilight zone of shadows. He is surrounded by the Egyptian scavenger gods of resurrection, the vulture and the hyena (Mut and Anubis), who eat the dead and resurrect them through their own bodies. When and if this happens, then it will be Spring time for Rostam — the last series."

Ave sees his art through a uniquely historical and pluralistic lens, whereby ancient mythological creatures can signal a sea change in time, provide an omen of "creative destruction," and still allow a modicum of hope. With an idiosyncratic playfulness, Ave drips colors across half-erased words, pairing Zoroastrian musings with expressions of emotional excess. The series was clearly born from a meditative process, a brooding reflection on changing times. Yet for Ave the intellectual process stops at the canvas; he is, above all, an intuitive and compulsive artist.

A life spent between Europe, America, and Iran has informed the formal and theoretical basis for Ave’s art. He was born in Tehran in 1945 and completed his primary and secondary education in England. With a career grounded in the theatre and film world, he gained a BA in Theatre Arts from Arizona State University in 1969 and studied film at New York University in 1969-70. Prior to the Iranian Revolution, he worked as a stage and graphic designer at the Iran American Society in Tehran, was Resident designer for the National Theatre, Tehran, and was advisor to National Iranian Television and the Shiraz Arts Festival. Between 1974 and 1979 he was acting artistic director of the Zand Gallery in Tehran. After the Revolution, in the 1980s, he opened his own gallery space, Ave Gallery, in North Tehran, which he continues to run today. Ave’s work is represented in various collections in the US including that of his friend and mentor, the legendary painter Cy Twombly Foundation; as well as the Contemporary Art Museum, Tehran; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Lloyds Bank, Geneva; and the British Museum, London.

Fereydoun Ave, Rostam in the Dead of Winter, 2009, Mixed media and -print on canvas, 100 x 150cm.