Presented by Signature Partner
Oct 19, 2022

Golo Morgh (Bird and flower)

We focus on Golo Morgh (Bird and flower) by Tehran-based artist Niloofar Kasbi.

Niloofar Kasbi, Golo Morgh (Bird and flower)

Niloofar Kasbi, Golo Morgh (Bird and flower), 2020. Digital print on silk. Overall: 105.5 x 108.5 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Bita Doagoo and Mazyar Mortazavi, 2021. © Niloofar Kasbi. 2021/343.2.

Joining the AGO Collection in 2021, Golo Morgh (Bird and flower) (2020) by Niloofar Kasbi consists of two elements: a digital print on silk (image at top) and a black ink drawing on paper (image below). For both, Kasbi used a traditional Iranian art form of monochromatic ink drawing from the 15th century called Siyāh-Qalam, meaning “black pen”. Like Kasbi’s, these drawings were often rendered on silk and paper. The title of the work and its imagery, Golo Morgh (Bird and flower), references gol o bolbol. The gol (rose) and the bolbol (a nightingale) motif – a sub-theme of the bird and flower motif – was prevalent across visual culture during the Safavid (1501 to 1736) and Qajar (1789 to 1925). Persian empires – not only in the decorative arts but also literature, textiles, manuscripts and architectural designs. At its peak in popularity and production, it was synonymous with all bird and flower designs, coinciding with European colonial influences.


Niloofar Kasbi, Golo Morgh (Bird and flower)

Niloofar Kasbi, Golo Morgh (Bird and flower), 2020. Black ink on paper, Sheet: 70 x 100 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Bita Doagoo and Mazyar Mortazavi, 2021. © Niloofar Kasbi. 2021/343.

Kasbi reframes the traditional gol o bolbol motif to comment on the uncertainties and difficulties of life in present-day Iran. In her landscape rendered in black ink, she replaces roses with plants native to Iran. At the top centre, peaceful nightingales are replaced with two birds of prey, viciously attacking each other in mid-flight. The digitally printed silk scarf features a brightly coloured nightingale contrasting the unruly vegetal backdrop of her ink drawing.

The Iranian Government severely restricts art and culture in the country, choosing which artists, art forms and cultural depictions to celebrate and show. Kasbi is openly queer and a woman, living and creating art outside this narrative. About what Golo Morgh (Bird and flower) represents, she has explained: “In the contemporary [Iranian] world, there is always a veil covering the truth, sometimes with black shades of anger and prejudice and sometimes with the white silk of dreamy desire, adorned with ‘Gol-o-Morgh’ (Flower and Bird). A sweet false picture of heaven.”   

Niloofar Kasbi lives and works in Tehran, Iran. An artist and educator, she holds a BFA and an MFA from the Azad University of Tehran and has taught at the Tehran School of Visual Arts. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Iran and internationally.

“Niloofar Kasbi’s work, Golo Morgh (Bird and flower), is a poignant example of the ability of an artwork to harness and express an atmosphere of tension – which the artist does elegantly through line, colour and subject, pulling on art historical precedents and infusing contemporary narratives,” says Corrie Jackson, Senior Art Curator, RBC.  “The RBC Art Collection is committed to celebrating the ability of art to hold space, both internally and shared, and to encourage reflection and discussion on important matters in our communities. The opportunity to view Kasbi’s work as part of The Medium is the Message is a moment for us all to reflect on the shifts in our world today.”

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