By Farshid Mesghali
The illustration works of Morteza Momayyez make the 50’s and 60’s a prominent era in the history of Iranian graphic design. Momayyez is quite dexterous in designing. The ratios of the constituents of shapes are skillful and beautiful. The composition of shapes and components are masterful. In addition, his images are faithful to the contents of the text.
In ‘Book of the Week’ he experienced a broad range of various techniques and most of his experiments have been quite successful. He embarked on illustration in an era when printing limitations only allowed black and white print. There was no color in illustration neither were there scanning and Photoshop. There was only pen, paper and the talent and skill of the illustrator. Yet we see that none of these qualities are missing in his works and they have often been perfectly created.
Momayyez’s last examples of eminent illustration were evident in the film, Black Bird.
At the start Momayyez worked with metal pen, ink, Konte pen and what was called as Tram sheets. He worked with these instruments and different techniques almost during the whole period of ‘Prosperous Iran’ and “Book of the Week’. He performed most of his designs on thick glossy paper (moghava) by ink (morakab chin) and then by scratching the ink off of the paper or adding tram he created different textures.
The images relating to Quran stories were also continuation of the same technique. He created carved wood texture directly on glossy paper (moghava). He covered the whole glossy paper(moghava) with ink and then razor cut various shapes out of the black sheet. These images are one of the best examples of illustration in the modern era of Iranian graphic design. And in my opinion they are among his most distinguished works; perhaps the best.
The images of Quran stories past four decades are still fresh and luminous and no trace of the passage of time is visible on them.
Illustration is ultimately a kind of painting created within the limits of the client, relativity to the text with consideration to the particular consumer. Naturally, it is influenced by the mother art. The changes and transformations of painting are reflected naturally in illustration. Our country’s first printed illustrations created in stone printed(chaap-e sangi) books in the Qajar period sprouted from the then current royal paintings. By the beginning of the era of realism after Kamal al-Molk, the illustration works that were produced for papers and magazines were also inclined towards realism. Presently as well, the Iranian new and contemporary illustration is somehow impressed by modern world painting.
Momayyez adapted our illustration to that of the modern age. In fact, the world of modern painting entered Iranian graphic design by Momayyez.
A part of Momayyez as an illustrator in my opinion is the natural and logical continuation of the only branch of plastic arts that has been current in Iran. Do we not regard miniature painting as our legacy? Aren’t stone printed book illustrations the natural continuation of old Iranian book making? Design and illustration for these books are the only graphic branches with an ethnic and historical precedence in this country that encountered western graphic art when it entered Iran. All graphic design branches such as book cover, poster, catalogue and advertisement designs are modern phenomena that have reached Iran throughout the recent decades and we see that all of our graphic designers in dealing with the graphic phenomenon have paid little attention to the first principle of graphic art which is design. They have mostly used illustration, shapes and forms. Our graphic design like all art branches is still very young and raw. Good graphic design examples however are easily found. Illustration and book design is indeed the only branch of graphic design in which we have precedence.
In understanding the essence of graphic design which is logical and based on idea we all have problems and Momayyez was no exception. Our graphic design suffers from the lack of understanding of the meaning of the message it is conveying, the lack of understanding of the efficiency of letters and the tight connections between different components that form the graphic composition. These have been and still are the Momayyez’s problems.
Momayyez was not also out of this path in confronting the modern phenomenon of graphic design. I believe he had much strength in executing illustrations but because of the lack of familiarity with the foundations of graphic design he was not able to sparkle well in posters or book covers. I see Momayyez as a good illustrator first, then as a designer of logo and logotype and at last as a graphic designer. Contrary to my opinion he primarily regards himself a graphic designer.
To me Momayyez is a prominent illustrator and I still see him as most capable in illustration.