The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Artist Mohsen Janatpour strives to give metaphorical content the dominant role in his paintings. A broad selection of his works is on exhibit through the end of August in the City Arts Gallery space in the Peninsula Ballet Theatre’s arts center in San Mateo.
Janatpour, a professor at College of San Mateo, was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. In 1963, he came to the United States to complete his higher education.
Initially, he pursued premed studies, but found himself increasingly interested in studying the cosmos. He says he was “fascinated by the unifying principles that linked all natural phenomena.”
He finds his work influenced by the philosophies of his favorite poets, among them Rumi and Khayyam, and other authors and by artists such as da Vinci, Goya, Picasso, Klee and Magritte.
His multidimensional artistic vision incorporates the element of time. He has created a form of visual composition he calls “symvisio” (“together viewing”). A typical symvisio brings together three to five panels (called “unfoldments”), each a unified composition that can stand on its own. He has the overarching concept clearly in mind before starting on the first unfoldment.
“When the panels are viewed together in a certain order and separation, the message of the composition is carried through a unity upon a greater variety,” Janatpour notes. He stresses that “what is most important in a symvisio is its emotional impact; and for me, nature is the ultimate source of my artistic emotions.”
The unfoldments of a symvisio may be based on the same color or value key or a similarity of shapes.
“Symvisio III: Sisyphus” spans five unfoldments centered on circles and rectangles in shades of green and violet. The unfoldments “Struggle,” “Ambitions,” “Disillusionment of Goals,” “Graceful Fall” and “Back to Vain Efforts” refer to the myth of Sisyphus, who was condemned to try eternally to roll a heavy rock up a steep hill in Hades only to watch it roll back down.
“Symvisio V: Zero Hour” came from one of Janatpour’s dreams about a clock made of seashells.
It spans “Dawn,” “Morning,” “Noon,” “Afternoon” and “Dusk.”
“Symvisio VI” is subtitled “A Composition with Sunflowers and Butterflies (In D-major).”
The show includes some 30 of Janatpour’s works. Some of the individual paintings are “Violin Player” and “Saxophone Player,” which are self-portraiture, “Dissatisfied Visitor,” “Indian Bride,” “Monument” and “Another Day.”
City Arts of San Mateo is curating the exhibit, and the Peninsula Ballet Theatre is at 1880 S. Grant St. in San Mateo. Hours are 1 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Call 650-522-7522, ext. 2787, or visit www.cityartsofsanmateo.org.