British - Iranian artist Hana Shahnavaz creates new work for long-awaited Jeff Bridges spy drama, FX's The Old Man

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British - Iranian artist Hana Shahnavaz creates new work for long-awaited Jeff Bridges spy drama, FX's The Old Man
Episode 5 screens tomorrow; last episode of this series screens 21 July.

LONDON.- Hana Shahnavaz is known for her highly stylised, vibrant paintings which depict the stories and legends of her Iranian heritage. This work - inspired by Persian miniatures and their accompanying literature - is made using pigments from rare, natural materials that are hand ground in her studio. Her chosen techniques are testament to a blending of traditional and contemporary arts, gold leaf and diamond dust make light emanate from the hand-made parchment that is her canvas.

The Old Man’s producers, Jon Steinberg and Dan Shotz, along with director Jon Watts, approached FX’s Design team to develop the series’ opening titles. Deep into explorations, the group began to rally around a unique concept which drew from artwork found in traditional eastern fables. FX Design creatives Steve Viola, Synderela Peng, and Dan Masciarelli embarked on a deep research study in this artform and began designing titles around an old illustration of the story of Kalila wa Dimna - a book of fables dating back to 2nd century India that has travelled across languages, cultures, and countries until finding its way into the visual repertoire of Persian art. From the mediaeval period onwards it has solidified itself as an essential part of Middle Eastern storytelling and artistic tradition. Mindful that the final images would have to be painted by someone experienced in this artform and taking care to treat the source material with the utmost respect for cultural history and authenticity, the design team set out to find the right artist. On discovering her beautifully rendered paintings, reinforced by her academic background in the culture and medium, the group immediately and enthusiastically entrusted the project to Hana.

After connecting on the artistic vision, the team at FX showed Hana the explorations drawn from the illustrations of Kalila wa Dimna. Animals and birds display human characteristics in these tales, with a pair of jackals, Kalila wa Dimna central to the plot. These narrative and metaphorical qualities laid an authentic foundation for Steinberg to superimpose subtle, hidden messages which tie into the show’s themes, characters, and story. Hana was asked to use two jackals as the template for seven artworks that would, through hidden messages in the images, gradually unfold the story that would be told in each episode of the FX series.

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Thomas Perry, FX’s The Old Man centres on “Dan Chase” (Jeff Bridges), who absconded from the CIA decades ago and has been living off the grid since. When an assassin arrives and tries to take Chase out, the old operative learns that to ensure his future he now must reconcile his past.

Storytelling is fundamental to Hana’s work; her pieces show how man is connected to animals, plants, birds and the wider cosmos. These concepts appear in her works for The Old Man. Here we see the two jackals embark on a journey across oceans, facing monsters and shapeshifting into new forms. As Hana says, “The Persian miniature has always been used to illustrate stories. In order to reflect the story of The Old Man, I had to make the jackals visually distinctive, so one is painted with red earth, the other with sparkly haematite: the first reflects comfort, whilst the movement of the second speaks to a feeling of restlessness. In this story of wild versus tame, the protagonists move through a variety of landscapes, from lush green forests painted in malachite, to dry deserted plains of ochre. The combining of colour and concept helps tell the story in a highly stylised way, making a strong parallel to the realism depicted in the actual television series.”

Hana’s new work will be on show at StART art fair, 12-16 October at Saatchi Gallery, London.

FX’s The Old Man will soon be available on Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ under the Star banner in all other territories.

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