Farhad Soltanie

Farhad Soltanie is a British Persian architect and artist based in London. Soltanie started his academic journey by obtaining a Diploma in Art & Design from Goldsmiths, University of London. He continued his education by earning a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in Fine Art in 1980. During this period, he studied at Goldsmiths and had the privilege of being mentored by the renowned British sculptor, the late Michael Kenny RA, who served as his personal tutor. He pursued further studies completing a Post-Graduate Diploma in Art and Design, specialising in ceramics and sculpture. He was supervised by Ken Bright, who was the head of the School of Art & Design at Goldsmiths at the time. Soltanie also completed an MPhil in History, focused on the topic of “Trace of Migration of Motives from Persian Empire to Post-Persian Empire in Fine Art and Architecture.” After completing his MPhil, he embarked on a doctoral program under the supervision of Professor G. Farhavari, who was the head of Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and Dr. Betty Al-Hammdany of Goldsmiths. In the mid-1990’s, he studied for an advanced MA in Advanced Architecture and his work was validated for Part I and Part II by RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects). In the early 2000s, he undertook studies again to become a student at Westminster University for a Post-Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice in Architecture Part III.

"This is a journey of knowledge and maturity through Space and Time."

Farhad Soltanie

Farhad Soltanie has little use for labels. For the Persian-British architect and artist, the lines of distinction drawn up between art, design and architecture exist only as arbitrary walls of our own construction. For him, all acts of creation exist within a continuum, as indistinguishable as our own existence from that of the cosmos. In the tradition of the great artists of the Renaissance, he breaks free of the confines of any one single medium, instead articulating his long-considered philosophy and vision across a spectrum of channels, from painting to sculpture, architecture to photography. For Soltanie, the only real distinction that matters is that between our own physical and metaphysical dimensions, the twain coinciding within us and propelling us to strive for perfection.

Discarding such delineations makes sense in the context of Soltanie’s work, which grapples with the vastness of the universe, its complexity and chaos and our individual place within space and time. These far-reaching themes, which he brings into focus and imposes order upon by making personal the universal, are what preoccupy him as he journeys deeper into his quest for truth or, more specifically, his creation of the all-encompassing Persian concept of ‘Haq’.

According to Soltanie’s world order, Haq describes the fine balance in which the universe is held, delicately sustaining form, shape and volume under the all-powerful auspices of the Creator. The roads of the artist’s research lead him to this language, through which pattern, a system of geometry and proportion articulate that cosmic balancing act. For those to whom Soltanie has imparted his driving rationale, a whole new system of understanding opens up but, for the uninitiated; all is not lost. Rather, it takes on a exceptionally pure abstract form. The marriage of the intellectual with the aesthetic and the spiritual duly blazes a trail in the dual worlds of art and architecture, clearing path for both disciplines to become layered in with the philosophical and the divine.

Soltanie’s yolking together of art and architecture – the rational with the instinctive – sees him consider a cosmos at the centre of which an omniscient and omnipresent Creator exists – and it is in the knowledge and faith of such a presence that Soltanie finds not just solace but also his ultimate inspiration.

The artist conveys his life philosophy through drawing, painting, sculpture and architectural model making. His is a practice that marries faith with science, expressed through the medium of an abstracted form which he terms Astro-Expressionism – a movement influenced by ancient chart of the universe. In his world in which the micro and macrocosm, sit in harmony, his work seeks to define and to understand our reason for being: our power versus our impotence; our importance versus our insignificance within the vastness of an ever-changing universe.

He says, ‘When you are looking at the sky, you are part of it. This is the symphony of the universe. I see each individual as being one note. If we know ourselves, we will play our part right and in line with this divine orchestra.’ And, for Soltanie, to be one of the notes that makes up humanity and, in turn, the universe, is not simply to relate to our contemporary fellow man, but also to those who went before us. He understands that every acts of creation is a small part of a grand whole; a floating piece of a divine puzzle.

He explains, ‘Recent excavations in Iran in the Burnt city (Shahr Sokhteh) have unearthed pieces of animation created by the Persian artist on pieces of ceramic and pots more than 5,200 years ago. As you turn the pot, you see that the animal (goat) is starting to move. That is powerful.’

Indeed, movement is fundamental to Soltanie’s understanding of the world, and his analysis of movement of stars and pattern can be seen in Persian Sufi Whirling Dervishes and contemporary ballet dancers at Goldsmith’s – his alma mater. These ultimately lead him to conclude that humans are fundamentally pattern makers, reflecting the way in which the whole cosmos works. For it is every individual movement that, for Soltanie, allows him to understand in microcosm the world via mathematical connection. He explains, ‘When you are looking at the beautiful sky on a very bright night, you see billions of dots and that’s called creation. And that creation gives you life. And then each individual of these has their own orbit of dots. When all of these points come together, you discern shapes – triangle, square and so on – and you realise that it is endless.’ And, indeed, such shapes can be observed within his drawings and his paintings, the everlasting thread that runs throughout his work.

‘This is a journey of knowledge and maturity through space and time,’ says Soltanie. ‘Time will manifest itself through our movement and space is a dimension of time; a dimension that facilitates our movement within the earthly order of cause and effect. Space makes it possible for objects to move and the result is a void or emptiness within the vacated space – a void which is refilled by the movement of the next object – and so the cycle continues. This continuous movement is the core of our known universe and the Essence of Existence within my work.’