Article: Simon Tait, Art Industry Magazine

Don’t ask football magnates the way to the future, talk to young artists…

This week I met a young artist whose success has come barely three years after graduating from art school, but who has invented her own genre that takes its inspiration from literature and techniques many centuries old and applied to our modern circumstances. It was a strangely humbling encounter.

She is called Hana Shahnavaz and is a kind of paradigm of today's young artists. She is half Iranian and half British with a studio in Wood Green named after a legendary horse from Persian literature, Shabdiz. She paints with joy and has an empathy with animals and horses in particular, and a deep affinity with nature which rules her art.

She sees parables in the old Persian folk stories that transcend modern preoccupations with religion, politics and sex, because in nature there are no such issues. Whatever we do to nature, for whatever reason, it will prevail.

So her art is created from pigments she makes herself, grinding rocks and plants to create the colours she needs: lapis lazuli, azurite, malachite, carmine, red madder and many more. She uses handmade mulberry silk paper, that's what the old masters used, and her brushes are made from a few bristles of cat's hair to give minute detail. The practice is pretty much what was used to make Persian miniatures in the Middle Ages, manuscript illuminations, icons, the English portrait miniatures of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Her preference is for the painting of Persia's Temur period of the 14th and 15th centuries - the age of Tamburlaine.

Hana's way of working is labour intensive and her pictures can take three years to complete; everything sells. Many visits to Iran have taught her that politics and religion cannot take the colour out of the character of a place, and her pictures convey the tranquillity, uplift and a oneness with nature of an old time that she believes can transcend modern conflict and allow us to come together and turn back to the finer things in life, restoring our devastation of nature on the way.

So it's not for the patrician generation to find ways of herding the young to their own projects, it's rather the other way round: the young, like Hana Shahnavaz, see the barriers of finance and what they consider false doctrines - left and right nomenclature in politics, orthodox and heretical religion, racial differentiation, labels defining art genres - as irrelevant in their view of the world and its future. 

April 23, 2021