Our farthest memory of Iranian painting first goes back to Manicheans and the painting of Manichean period (Arjanh Mani). Every now and then, the traces of its aesthetic values are evident on the walls illustrating the paintings of Sassanid period in the first centuries of Islam (particularly Saljoghi period), once again the past value of painting was revived; a clear example of them can be found in books such as “Varagheh and Goulshah” and “Samake Ayar”. In this passage, the pictorial memories of the ancestor are obscure by the second half of the 7th century. Maxed color, marginal lines and view left out improvised, are all conspicuous specifications of the painting in this period. Gradually the Iranian insight in the layout of the late 7th century became more apparent, despite the Mongol invasion of Iran which was brutal and destructive; but as if the second half of the 7th century of Mongol chieftains, rose a kind of sensitivity in the Islamic Iran.
The Iranian painting which was originally combined with Eastern Asia, found common visual values due to the coming of Mongols to Iran. For, in the unconscious background of an Iranian person, such a pictorial conception had a root. So, Tabriz Eilkhani can be regarded as a turning point in recognizing the ancient Iranian traditions.
In parallel with this investigation, one point should be contemplated and that’s the visual similarity of Iranian paintings with indo-china paintings. Where does the similarity come from?
Considering the fact that all those areas followed their distinctive ways later on, it seems that they possess string links in their visual infrastructures. This is what is so called “Eastern Metaphysic area” or “Eastern collective unconscious” by traditionalists. Hence, it should be painted out that the ancient eastern traditions have affected each other and pass one another at some points and are in a long journey. These common motives have made most of the eastern traditions and art from deep within, and it seems that the unconscious of eastern people is still in the authority of motives which originates from a direct obscure illusion of far far past.
Despite the external similarities with indo-china painting, each continued its own way. The Iranian painting led its own way to the extent that in 10th and 11th century reached to its climax. The Iranian painter strove to draw his painting in his time close to the deep concepts and layers of it. One of the major motives dominating over Islamic Iranian art was signifying geometric concepts; which in 3rd century, theoretical instructions were translated from Greek to Arabic language and Iranian mathematicians like Bouzjani and Farabi attempted hard to explain them elaborately, all and all had a root in Euclidean geometry.
Later on, Iranians took the best from geometry in order to extend their reflective instructions and at the same time deduct novel definitions around it which were not loyal to the Euclidean geometry. Geometry hade some some major facial principles, which could appropriately fit in the Islamic Iranian notional structure, cause geometry was based on rules and regulation and this issue had an awesome closeness to the theological teaching in Islamic tradition, that’s the main point in understanding of Iranian Art which thereafter dominated all Islamic arts such as; Architectural principles, the 12th principles of calligraphy, the system and principles of Iranian painting (Negargari), fretwork basics and most importantly religious principles.
Meanwhile, in the deep layers of Asian geography, what joined the eastern spirit is the simple forms and geometric motives, to the extent that one can find the unconscious effect of these forms in handicrafts and all native cultures of these regions in the structures of forms and official arts.
Mandals, Archetypes, the sacred form of Buddhist architecture, the temples and Hindu dances and the focus of Zen monks on defined circumference of a circle, are all signs of a memory which have prepared the eastern spirit to accept geometry and it should be admitted that every culture has the latent ancient tradition in its own way.
It is worth mentioning that it is the vast dimensions of symbolizing and the inner part of the Islamic Iranian person which in the art of his land turned to sophisticated mysteries; to the extent that the secrets of Iranian letter decoration can stretch from installation level to a peculiar area of metaphoric meanings that its scope can be followed to Antioch of Baghdad.
Antioch of Baghdad welcomed the idea of extremist nomads who fled their city in mid 3rd century. They followed the thoughts of Pythagorean School and they could gradually have an impact on the structure and reflective instructions of Islamic commentators. Hence, one can trance the root of the arrangement and decoration of letters from Kufi to the structure of “setteh letters” of Islamic Iran.
With the mystic ground of our land, particularly after Sheykh Shahjhad al-din Sohravardi, the mystery of the letter reached to the focus of mystical debates and turned to be a sophisticated metaphor. Let’s have a glance over the speeches of mystics such as Hallaj and Rumi or a close look on the metaphors of Persian lyrics, and then you would definitely find out the magical applications of letters and numbers. They are all indications of the penetration and the application of coinage of numbers and the sanctity of the letters which little and over years found its way from Antioch through Islamic Iranian thought and reached to the common culture and beliefs like magic, astrolabe, geomancy, palm reading of fortune tellers. The followers of the magic of the letters and numbers fortune the apex of their language in “Horofyyeh” sect (a sect of interpreting the letters) and this sect attracted numerous followers which turned to be a pole in Saffavid period and it was suppressed in the same era.
Hence, in the frame work and the horizon of such beliefs, Iranian painting (Negargari) came into being. New sparkles arising from Andalusia, took the current of Iranian painting to a strange place. The mystical background of Iran was shaken by the thoughts of Ebn Arabi and entered a new stage. It opened new chapters for dialogue which fundamentally penetrated the Islamic Iranian Art body. “Ideal World” or what Sheikh Eshragh called as “Suspending forms”, pull the pictorial plans up, and at the same time the quality of “mirror like” which is the key mystical concept, became the basis principle in Iranian Art after Ebn Arabi thoughts, and it caused the fact that the metaphor or “Mirror” in Iranian painting, be extended to the transparency and saturation of colors. The use of mirror and unified tiles in Islamic architecture, compound transparency and smooth calligraphy are some the examples. Such awareness which originated from Ebn Arabi thoughts, came to Iran through Andalusia and with a good ground of Khosravani wisdom in Iran, could properly fit into the structure of our society. The calm spirit and modesty of mystic which make people think of solitude and self purification, could settle a kind of quiet solitude in the spirit of Iranian Art which resulted in manifestation of curved lines in Iranian painting as well as circle and curved Muqarnas (Stalactite work) in architecture and Nastaleegh calligraphy in Iran. This was a unique opportunity taken by Iranians, after the lapse of centuries and the domination of Islamic on Iranian land. They pulled out their thoughts and beliefs from within the Islamic thoughts. An Iranian at last could demonstrate his historic complaint from the Islamic thoughts and bring to light the greatness of his approach. If you simply take a look at the ways and methods of performing Iranian Art from delineation in Iranian painting to the patient drawing of calligraphy and all the details in Iranian art, one could see the simplified thoughts of great mystics in the passage of centuries.
The mirror transparency of colors, and the various dimensions of Iranian painting and also decorative delicacy, which regards the works of Iranian painters as pictorial miracles, was born in the memory of hard working painters such as Joneid Baghdadi, Kamal al-din Behzad Mohammad Seiah Ghalam and Sultan Mohammad Naghash; they could proudly shine on the climax of the conscious and unconscious of this culture.