Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian has forged a distinguished career spanning over 50 years. Inspired by the traditions of Islamic geometry and pattern and by techniques such as reverse glass painting, mirror mosaic and relief sculpture, Farmanfarmaian has revived and transformed these forms to create startlingly original works.
The mirror mosaic that characterises her most celebrated works draws on an Iranian decorative form known as aineh-kari. This technique dates back to the 16th century, when pieces of mirrors broken in transit from Europe to Persia were incorporated by tile mosaic craftspeople into their creations of decorative architectural panels. Lightning for Neda skilfully uses this technique: over 4000 mirror shards per panel activate myriad patterns within its glittering, sublime surface. The hexagon, which provides the work’s underlying structure, is an important shape within Islamic geometry, and also has mystical connotations, representing the six directions (up, down, forward, backward, left, right) as well as the six virtues of generosity, self-discipline, patience, determination, insight and compassion. Farmanfarmaian symbolically activates these virtues in this work. Neda means to ‘give voice’ in Farsi. The work’s title may pay homage to Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old Iranian woman killed in the streets of Tehran during protests that followed 12 June 2009 presidential elections.