' In FarmanFarmaian’s ongoing series, Summer at the Caspian II – V, an ongoing series of works, the artist leads us back to hazy family summers spent in the North of Iran, captured on Super 8 mm film. Too young to have witnessed these scenes personally, he appropriates the memory of this former era through snapshots, serenely faded through the prism of time. Overlain with digitally layered ground plans of the artist’s family former properties on the Caspian and stained with splashes of archival mark making, these enduring images reside in an orphaned, timeless zone, not forgotten, not past '
Lisa Pollman, Art Radar - Nov. 2016
Farmansara a Text by Dr. Amir FarmanFarma
Firouz's paintings are based on images and maps of Farmansara (Persian for: ‘the house of the Farmans’), which was a property on the Coast of the Caspian Sea in Iran where our family gathered in the month of August from the early sixties until the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
By family, I mean the families of the thirty-two sons and daughters--from eight wives--of Prince Abdol Hoosier Farman-Farma, grandson of Crown Prince Abbas Mirza Qajar.
In the late fifties, upon returning from decades-long stays in America & Europe for their schooling and university, my father and several of his brothers and sisters had scouted the coast of the Caspian for a family property where they could spend time together in the summers. They had eventually settled on a tract about two kilometers long and half a kilometer wide, which lay to the West of the Namak Ab Rud (the ‘Saltwater River’) near the then village of Chalus. (Chalus is now a large town, connected by highway to Tehran.)
They long-leased this land from a distant relative and divided it among themselves. Each brother or sister took a narrow strip of land, running from the coastal road down to the Sea.
Farough, Homeira, Haroon-al-Rashid, Ghaffar, Jabbareh, Sabbar, & Alinaghi are some of the names that can be read (in Persian script) on the map of Farmansara, which Firouz has superimposed on the photographs of the time, before painting over them.
But the majority of the brothers and sisters never got around to building their own houses. Instead, they brought up tents and camped on the plot belonging to Uncle Farough, one of the clan elders, who had a triple-wide plot.
A week before the start of the festivities, lorries would arrive at the gates of Farmansara carrying the tents that would be set up in rows all over the property. The majority of these were rectangular white or khaki canvas hunting tents, with netting for mosquitoes and a separate, roof cover for rain. The tents were separated by just the space that was required for their thick ropes to run diagonally down to their pegs, which pushed up against the adjacent tents walls.
On the high ground near the road, Uncle Farough built a communal kitchen with a large covered Pavilion, where we took our meals. [Uncle Farough is wearing a cap, sitting behind the steering wheel of the motorboat in Summer at the Caspian V, Part I]
He built another pavilion was by the shore. It was manned all day by parents, armed with life-saving equipment, binoculars and whistles, who took turns overseeing the children’s activity by the shore. Our parents are still proud that despite the treacherous undercurrents, shifting sands, and crashing waves of the Caspian, there were no serious accidents over the two decades that we gathered at Farmansara.
Down by the shore, Farough built a large boathouse, where we kept three motorboats, half a dozen sailboats, rowboats, windsurfers and surfboards. [This boathouse, its garage door open, can be clearly seen in Firouz’s painting, Summer at the Caspian II, behind the character slouched in a deck chair.]
Farough’s son, Vali was in charge of the boathouse and had is rooms directly behind the boathouse. Cousins Dadi and Ramin roomed with him there. Ramin taught us to sail. Dadi and Vali, who could ski slalom and barefoot taught us to water-ski on the choppy waters of the Caspian.
Aunt Homeira was the great organizer of camp Farmansara. She appointed the cooks, oversaw the kitchens and storerooms, directed the cooks, drivers, gardeners, and did the accounting for our parents to share the costs.
We children lived by her strict set of rules. Breakfast was served from 8am, but the beach did not open until 10, when the first adult emerged to act as lifeguard. By that time, the grey, silicon-infused sand of the beach burned our feet as we pushed the boats on their trollies down the long length of the beach.
On the water, we took turns water skiing, sailing, rowing, surfing, or occasionally going for a long swim with one of the adults, often Aunt Sattareh or Aunt Sori. Safety belts or vests were compulsory.
After lunch, at noon, there was naptime, and the beach opened again in the afternoon. We would body surf in the waves, sometimes getting caught and summersaulting in the sandy water. We would build sandcastles, make dams, or dig ourselves into the sand, or spend hours watching and catching the little creatures that buried themselves in the wet sand of the shoreline each time a wave washed away.
By 5, it was time to push the boats back up to the boathouse, wash them, shower and change for dinner at 6. As a younger kid, I was involved in gathering and hosing down the extant life jackets and belts at the end of the day.
That’s when the adults-free from us--enjoyed their cocktail hour at the beach pavilion. But immediately after dinner, we would descend on them. By then, the ashtrays would be full of nutshells. Backgammon boards and plates full of watermelon rinds sat among the pitchers and glasses on the table.
We would watch our parents flirt, sing, pinch each other’s cheeks or sides and tell jokes to backslapping howls of laughter.
Farmansara was an incredible expression of of our clan consciousness. Our tribal feeling was so strong it sucked us together, away from our ordinary lives, away from our homes and plots of land, all bunched up together. It was two weeks in which we went back to our tribal roots, living in tents, roaming around freely without keys or money in our pockets, and eating and sleeping in groups, just as our Qajar ancestors had done for generations.