. .

Maryam Motallebzadeh

back to the German version>>

Who is Maryam? Who is Maria?
paintings - photography - film - installation

By Dr. Reiner Bessling

Wearing a chador Maryam Motallebzadeh is photographed in front of an altar of Bremen's Cathedral. The cloth is delineated with verses of the Persian poet Hafiz. It's about the beginning of hope in love and in its way of encumbrances . A beautiful original sound , a beautiful typeface in ornamental rhythms and colors of the Iranian flag.

In the photograph, the artist has painted surfaces of the church architecture, reinforced the pattern of the masonry and added words. For example, Allah, the word for God. For her Islam and Christianity have the same God. Her name Maryam is the counterpart to Mary. Going into the church with the clothing of the muslima is for the Persian woman a symbolic act for the approach of religions.

Maryam Motallebzadeh is living for 13 years in Bremen, where she studied at the University of Arts. She reflects in her multi-faceted works – paintings, graphics, installations and films - the reality of life in her homeland and forges links between the cultures. In the sense of Goethe, who perceived the exchange between Orient and Occident as consolidation of both cultures, these two worlds face each other in her works. Thereby she often places her own ego, her feelings and self-conception in the center of her paintings and installations.

In an evident way her works manifest, why the arabesque is regarded as precursor of abstraction and the calligraphy as pioneer of a swinging line.

Likewise Maryam Motallebzadeh developed her own visual language with allegorical forms which reflect existential and compositional basic-questions.

Blocky forms show up as stages of life and as elements of order, corresponding with lines and dots and point to vicissitudes with challenges of existence and orientation. They remind us of architectures, specific and mental dwellings.

The colors have symbolic meanings that may associate political movements and events, but at the same time affiliate to natural phenomenons and posses a high independently picturesque quality.

The artist often applies the material in many layers, leaving hidden and covert things shining trough or she scratches and scrapes into the surface, an act which clarifies the restless potential in her art.

She sews German words on a cloth with Persian handwriting. In a get together of both languages ??she has found her spiritual home. Knotted bands point to hopes and the utopian parts in her art:

The cultural circles between she moves about, fulfilling of happiness in mutual peaceful enrichment.

Maryam Motallebzadeh was born in 1960 in Tabriz (Iran) 1999, she emigrated to Germany and was a guest at the Univerity of Arts in Bremen, 2001-2007 Studies (Fine Art) at the University of Arts Bremenwith Prof. Paco Knöller and Prof. Peter W. Schaefer, 2008 - 2009 Project promotion “Project Knots” sponsored by the Bremer Senator for Culture.

Numerous international solo -and group exhibitions, Painting, performances, installations and films.



The work of Maryam Motallebzadeh goes into the notions of plane and abstraction and, picking up Persian characters as a subject of art, inquires into her own cultural roots and her ties to her home country Iran. In her paintings, some of them being very large-format, she uses several layers of paint to create delicately balanced and profound colour fields in which she “inscribes” Persian characters for fundamental philosophical concepts like “Myself”, “You”, “Truth”, “God”, “Nothing” or “Where to?”, using a broad brush.
For Maryam Motallebzadeh, Farsi stands for her own cultural identity, and the calligraphic beauty of its typeface is an inexhaustible and fascinating source for her imagination. At the same time, she feels the urge to deliver herself from the normative constraints of the characters. This liberation follows almost naturally from the fact that the major elements of Farsi are, like in Arabian characters, the dot and the curved line. And the “pictorial thinking” (Klee) of abstract, graphic art is turning around the relations of “Point and Line to Plane“ (Kandinsky, 1926). In one of her paintings, Maryam Motallebzadeh releases the curved line and the dot forming the Farsi character “Myself” from their function as signs into a colour field where they reveal their inherent shapes as horizon line and star, fundamental elements of landscape. Thus, the decomposed shapes of the character are re-arranged and become a metaphor of  the “self” reflecting upon its relationship with the universe.

In most of her dyptichs, soaring lines and dots are superimposed by oppressive sheets of colour which symbolise the burdens of life.
Other works are characterised by dark rectangles dominating small structures. They stand for an order Maryam Motallebzadeh is aspiring for, as a contrast to her sometimes chaotic life, as she sees it. As she is not looking for an order to submit to, but for a vivid structuring element of life, she does not “paint” these works with brush or spatula but with  her bare hands.

This all may sound very intentional and programmatic, but intuition and coincidence are major elements of Maryam Motallebzadeh‘s creative process, as is illustrated by her working with closed eyes or by drops of paint having dried running down the surface. Often, the painted lines have the meaning of emotional vibrations, and areas of colour stand for emotional depth. Even structures can express emotions, as in the painting she created after a trip on a cold train. One can feel the cold in the way she has applied the colour whose texture and shade give the impression of hoarfrost. By contrast, the smaller, greenish sheets of colour make you think of blurred images of a landscape, as perceived through the window of a train compartment.

The art of Maryam Motallebzadeh can be described as a unique position between calligraphy and abstract drawing that plays with the boundaries between determined signs and free shapes, between concept and emotional gesture. She goes beyond a merely formal experiment to question a shy inner self about its relationship with the outside world.


Regina Gramse, October 2003
(Historian of art)




"Zweie" by Maryam Motallebzadeh

“Zweie“, (“The Two”) these are above all the natural elements of water and earth, rock and land, rocks and waves. But the battle of the element does not stand for itself. Allegorically it symbolizes political as well as religious conflicts. The film “Zweie” by the Persian artist Maryam Motallebzadeh illustrates the struggle in the psychic experience of different worlds. The counter current escalator, a tunnel or railroad tracks describe the irritation of the arrival in a foreign land. It is another place into which the suitcase is carried, a special place: lettered shoes, feathers on the ground, a bed, handwritings on a blanket, a black lettered white negligee.  The traveller at the window has arrived, but she is not alone. She is accompanied by her reflection, her culture, her history, her tradition. With knotted ribbons her wishes and memories are shown. Green and red, desire and restriction. A mosque in Tehran appears like a visible thought. The inscribed and fixed wallpapers unveil inspirations. The different letters  are mixed  like worlds of thoughts–Persian and German. In the doorway you can see a mirror. Living in spaces of two different languages throws a person back to his own- back into the depths of sleep. The unit of  both cultures  is a hanging ball over the bed. A Black geometric Instrument with white script, an artefact.




My Hands by Maryam Motallebzadeh

A clouded sky, a gull and a piece of earth, its horizon means the whole world creating a minimum of landscape. A cry of a gull and the sound of heartbeat announce organic life: hands grow beyond the horizon first touching then digging, bathing themselves in the soil caressing themselves and the element. The hands begin to plant accompanied by the elementary sounds of nature, supplied by the motive of earth, water and air. With the visual rhythm of cuts and slow motion the landscape transforms into a flower, which narrates about the blossom of life and at the same moment it symbolizes the metaphor of decay. It dies and with her the hands, together they form the still life of vanity, which in the stream of rain returns to the original element of all life that is water. Sounds of elementary nature up to music underline the
inherent tension between nature and culture.
The movie combines in a lyric shortness and density the circulation of individual life with fate of earth. This becomes especially clear with the sentence „I want from you Earth that you are dear to my hands". The authoress writes in Persian letters with dark soil on light ground, so the narration of the movie experiences a change in the accentuation from a human being-nature-relation to the theme of migration.

Regina Gramse
(Historian of art)

. . .