Zenderoudi's Letter

Tuesday, October 19th 2021

by Jacques Farran


Born in Tehran in 1937, Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi must be the most often exhibited contemporary Persian artist. Major international institutions such as of the MoMA (NYC), the British Museum (London) and Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris) have indeed incorporated into their collections works of the man who was presented in 1970 by Connaissances des Arts Magazine as one of the ten most important living artists worldwide.

Zenderoudi’s works started to be exhibited when he was just nineteen years old. In 1958, he founded the Saqqa-Khaneh movement which proposed a contemporary revisiting of iconographic and conceptual loans from Persian culture. In 1960, he moved to Paris where he met Giacometti, Fontana, Dubuffet and writers Ionesco and Restany.


"Letter" was painted at age thirty by a precocious genius who had been awarded the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale six years prior. This painting shows the artist deploying his distinctive abstractive style in a perfectly mastered fashion. Here, the grapheme becomes a formal element that is devoid of any particular meaning and arranged in a structured and powerful way so as to intersperse the surface of the painting with fresh and luminous colors.

Recently rediscovered in Montpellier, "Letter" had previously belonged to illustrious art lovers, from the well-known Galerie C.H. le Chanjour to the personal collection of restaurant owner and art patron Camille Renault. "Big Boy" Renault, who later befriended Sartre, Camus, Le Corbusier or Picasso, offered artists such as Kupka, Léger, Villon, etc. the opportunity to invite art critics and gallery owners to his prestigious table in exchange for paintings, thus gathering a sizeable collection.


Highly appreciative of Zenderoudi’s pictorial diversity, Renault incorporated this painting into his personal collection and drew a bull meant to represent the Taurus, his astrological sign, on the back of the canvas, .

With this “Letter”, an artful blend of the Orient and lyrical abstraction, Zenderoudi illustrates the Universalist thought and practice of René Etiemble's comparative literature, whom he had great admiration for. The artist explains: “I am an expert in calligraphy, not a calligrapher. I paint, I do not calligraph. Just like architects use stones or bricks to build a structure, I use writing to build my paintings.”
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