Writes by Morteza Momayez
Morteza Momayez by Others
Kari Piippo
Niklaus Troxler
Armando Milani
Pierre Bernard
Bruno Monguzzi
Ben Bos
Neshan Magazine
Farshid Mesghali / 2
Farshid Mesghali / 1
Rene Wanner

Farshid Mesghali / 2

As I was studying in the last grades of high school, I witnessed the publication of a new magazine called “Iran-e Abad” (developed Iran), which was almost similar to other periodicals of the time. The only thing that made the magazine quite distinct from others was its appearance including the titles and illustrations. It produced a different impression and the signatures of the illustrations appearing in unusual sizes and at odd places gave it a new look. Thus I noticed for the first time the signature of Morteza Momayez, which after being repeatedly included in another periodical of the time titled “Weekly Book Review” opened a new chapter in the history of Iran’s graphic arts.

His graphic works introduced me to a new exciting world and prompted me to exercise my creative faculties and look for a variety of untouched domains. The artist’s solid character was one of his distinct features. Pretty soon we ended up working together in an art studio and became close friends. Momayez proceeded to take further steps in graphic arts on the domestic scene, which contributed to its evolvement and development of new branches. As the “Weekly Book Review” continued to be published a new horizon was opened in the field. In fact, the graphic arts in Iran is associated with the name of Momayez so that it has been distinctly classified into pre-Momayez and post-Momayez periods.

The impact of his initiatives on promotion of illustration, page design, poster, film title and book cover design as well as other branches of graphic arts in the modern era is quite evident on the domestic scene. Momayez also founded the Graphic Arts Department at the Fine Arts College of Tehran University. In the beginning, his working tools consisted of pen and ink, crayon, drawing pencils and screens known as `treme’. The screens were used to cover the texture in order to reduce the color density and intensity of the characters.  These were the basic tools used in publishing “Iran-e Abad” and “Weekly Book Review” along with various techniques.

He often used to draw sketches on thick glossy cardboard by pen and Chinese ink. Then he produced a variety of desired effects by scratching off the ink or using screens. The images of Quranic verses have been produced by the same technique. He managed to produce the impression of carved wood directly on the glossy cardboard. To do so, first of all he covered the entire cardboard with ink. Then he scratched off the desired forms and figures by using a blade. The images produced in this way are among the best examples of the modern illustrations produced in Iran, which in my idea are quite distinguished from the rest of his illustrations. These may even be considered as his best works of art. The images produced by Momayez about four decades ago under the inspiration of Quranic stories are up-to-date, modern and beyond time.

In 1960, he was commissioned to design a series of advertisements aiming to introduce the beverage known as 7-Up day by day. The sketches drawn by him comprised a bottle wrapped up in a newspaper, part of which was torn away every day. Meanwhile, the image of the torn parts of the newspaper appeared on the front page of the dailies. Eventually, on the last day, the bottle was completely unveiled. The series of ads were created by taking photos of the promotional item (the 7-Up bottle) and the newspaper in which it was wrapped. The ads were modern both in technique and the idea behind it. In those days screens were used to produce various tonalities just as it is a common practice today. The screen, treme, was placed between the light source, lithographic camera and a plate known as cliché.  The screen was transferred a range of gray tonalities to the clichés. Momayez asked the gravurist who was printing this series of ads to eliminate the screen from the process, which reduced it to two distinct tones, namely pure black and pure white, without any gray tonality in-between.

The effect thus produced was similar to what is being nowadays produced readily by “Photo Shop”.  The style was taken as an innovation and creativity in that period and is still being exercised.

Momayez was so charmed by the technique that his works are actually identified by such contrasts, given his frequent use of it. Thus Momayez, who was already known as an illustrator, turned out to become a graphic designer. This marked the end of one of the most active periods of his career, during which he produced the most creative series of artworks.

His works can be classified into three distinct categories:  “Illustration”, “Design of Signs, Characters and Emblems” as well as “Graphic Design”.

His illustrations created between 1950s and 1960s mark a brilliant era in Iran’s Contemporary Graphic Arts. I myself was deeply impressed by his expermintalism and was motivated to create similar works. Momayez is known to be a dexterous designer and the components of his drawings appear to be in good proportions. The forms and overall composition of his works have been created elaborately. Besides, his illustrations fully match the concept of the relevant text. In the “Weekly Book Review” he has applied a wide range of techniques, most of which have been quite successful. He became involved in illustration in a time when the printing limitations only allowed black and white images to be produced.

In those days, it was impossible to apply colors to illustration. Neither was it possible to scan, nor was there access to Photo Shop!! Pen and paper plus the artist’s talents and know-how were the only available tools of the time. Nevertheless, the perfection of his works do not reflect the lack of access to the modern media. The latest example of his exquisite illustrations is the series produced for a film dubbed “The Black Bird”.

Design of signs, characters and emblems is another branch in which he has been actively involved. Momayez is quite gifted in simplifying forms and shapes. He can manage to make a form so simple that it cannot be further simplified, without making the basic concept incomprehensible.  At the same time, the balance in the size and proportions of the reduced shapes is maintained. Given his skill to distinguish the fundamental points and lines of every shape and ability to omit the additional ones, he has the faculty to express the idea in a concise manner. This is quite evident in the emblems, film posters and book covers he has already designed.

I consider the emblem of Reza Abbasi Museum and the introductory words in the poster of a movie titled “Gazelle” as the best examples. Momayez is one of the few individuals who could have taken a serious and effective step towards completing the typography of the Persian script. But unfortunately, he never took on to do so.

He has rather been mainly involved in graphic design including book cover design, magazine page design and production of cultural posters. He has also improvised a new style for book cover and page design. A good example of modern page design in the national media has been exercised in an Iranian magazine titled “Culture and Life”, which displays a different type of format. Momayez decided to change the conventional format of the periodicals and replace it with a square format. Despite the technical printing drawbacks of the time, he succeeded to design the pages in a new way which was at the same time quite convenient and easy to read. As a matter of fact, he managed to design the pages of a magazine with a rather serious content in a very attractive style. As a graphic designer, he initiated enlarging the size of the magazine’s serial number on the front cover, which has become a common practice in this type of periodical. Another attempt towards innovation by him concerned the form and place of the page numbers, which is still being manipulated by most graphic designers.

The few books whose pages have been designed by Momayez are good examples of page design on the domestic scene. By making use of contrast he has not only made an innovation while placing special focus on aesthetics, but has added to the charm of book covers to attract the attention of viewers and possible buyers. Frequent use of hands and flashes in his graphic designs is one of his points of strength. Momayez appears to be especially interested in the two specified elements, as though he has not yet achieved to make an ideal use of them in his graphic works.

In short, Iran’s history of contemporary graphic arts would have been incomplete and senseless without Momayez and the images of hands and flashes drawn by him. As a matter of fact, we are all indebted to him.

Farshid Mesghali-2004