Medieval Geometry: Artful Attacks

Medieval Geometry: Artful Attacks

Artful Attacks, 2021

Solo Exhibition, Mercury 20 Gallery, Oakland, CA

Iran, a signatory to Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is the most peacetime sanctioned and politically subjugated country in the world. UNSC nuclear-armed states have collectively pressured Iran to abandon many of its NPT rights. The Trump administration declared that suffocating Iran’s economy was an American strategy aimed at triggering mass uprising. People of Iran, including my family, have been under tremendous pressure because of the sanctions. In the past few months, while working on my new series, Artful Attacks, I have been preoccupied with thoughts of political pressure and sanctions.

The title, Artful Attacks, refers to the mysterious attacks that have targeted Iran’s nuclear site in the historic city of Natanz. This new body of work was shaped organically as a reaction to the coverage of such incidents in the media. As a result, my 42 ft long scroll drawings visualize deconstructed, interrupted, and ambiguously arranged geometric patterns as a metaphor for political pressure and tension.

In my pieces, I have appropriated patterns from a 97-foot late medieval Iranian document called Topkapi scroll housed at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. Pasted at one end to a wooden rod, this paper scroll compiles a collection of 114 rectangle and square geometric architectural drawings and tiling patterns with Kufic script, in black and red inks. The Topkapi scroll is a significant example of the interconnectivity of science and art.

In a group of ceramic tiles, I use words that surface the Iranian press, such as cyberattack, sanctions, nuclear power, covert war, mysterious explosion, and political tension. Like Kufic geometric ceramic tiles found in both Topkapi scroll and Natanz historic shrines and mosques, my Kufic arrangements are composed in a somewhat undecipherable manner. The choice for the pairing of black and yellow comes from the standard nuclear power logo.

Through erasing, blurring, re-drawing, de-coloring, and re-coloring the same patterns, I create new patterns and disturbed surfaces. My large scroll drawings, ceramic Kufic tiles, and performative videos collectively represent both my emotional unease and the constant threats to the historical city of Natanz and its medieval architecture-as an exemplar of the whole Iranian culture and nation.

Exhibition view, Mercury 20 Gallery, Oakland, CA, 2021
Political Kufic Ceramic Tiles, Augmented Scroll, and Alter in Every Direction performative video

Political Kufic Ceramic Tiles, exhibition view, Mercury 20 Gallery, 2021

Augmented Scroll, 2021, charcoal and chalk pastel on paper and wooden rod, 42 feet x 42 inches

Studio, Palo Alto, CA

Drawing II from Augmented Scroll, 60 x 42 in
Charcoal and yellow pastel on paper

Drawing I from Augmented Scroll, 99 x 42 in
Charcoal and yellow pastel on paper

Detail of Drawing I

Political Kufic Ceramic Tiles, 2021, digital illustration and print on ceramic tile, each 12×12 inches

The words from left to right: 
Enfejaar Mashkook in Persian (Suspicious Explosion)
Tanesh Siyaasee in Persian (Political Tension)
Hamleh Cyberee in Persian (Cyber Attack) 
Jang-eh Penhaan in Persian (Covert War)
Tah-reem & Godrat in Persian (Sanctions & Power)
Godrat Hasteh-ee in Persian (Nuclear Power)


The video shows the five steps of Drawing ii from my Augmented Scroll. The drawing starts symmetrically and gradually becomes asymmetrical through blurring and erasing processes. I colored some of the shapes in Persian blue; I erased the shapes and replaced the color with Yellow from the nuclear power logo. Drawing: 60 x 42 in, charcoal and yellow pastel on paper

Artful Attacks, an interview by Historian and Research Scholar Carol Bier, 2021

Carolyn Smith, guitar performance, July 2021, Mercury 20 Gallery, Artful Attacks
Piece: Koyunbaba, by Domeniconi, 1991.


Topkapi Scroll & Geometric Ornamental Architecture – Steal | this | Hijab دزدیدن این حجاب
Topkapi Scroll, 97 ft x 13 inches, late medieval Iran, housed at the Topkapi Library, Istanbul, Turkey
The document includes 114 architectural drawings, vaults, and tiling patterns.

Left: my tile design reads Cyber Attack.
Right: Topkapi scroll’s Kufic calligraphic panel. “Script: “Man kana li’llah” (I belong to God)”

Left: my tile design reads Nuclear Power repeated around the edge of the tile design
Right: Topkapi scroll’s original Kufic calligraphic panel. “Script: undeciphered.”

Left: my tile design reads Covert War rotated two times
Right: Topkapi scroll’s original Kufic calligraphic panel. “Script: “Mubarak bad” (May he [or it] be blessed!), rotated four times.”

The patterns from the Topkapi scroll that I used to create the asymmetrical Augmented Scroll’s patterns

The nuclear site, Natanz, Iran

The tomb of Abdossamad at the Jameh Mosque of Natanz, 1304, shows the Kufic script and tiles using the Persian blue. Abd-ul-Samad was an Ilkhanid era Sufi of the 13th century.