Hana Shahnavaz: the artist works for the television series The Old Man

07:00 8 August 2022

British-Iranian artist Hana Shahnavaz has received an unusual request from the creators of a major American television series – to create special footage for the title sequence.

The producers of spy thriller The Old Man asked him to create a different artwork for each episode, with clues to the series’ themes and characters hidden in Persian miniatures.

Crouch End artist Hana Shahnavaz makes her own paint from rocks and minerals collected from around the world
– Credit: Courtesy of the artist

After signing an NDA, she produced seven pieces for designers around two jackals who embark on a journey across the oceans facing monsters and metamorphoses. Based on a book of fables from 2nd century India, it subtly reflects the story of fugitive former CIA agent Geoff Bridge, who is chased from hiding and goes on the run when his past catches up with him. .

“They got in touch via my website and explained their vision,” says the artist, who lives between Highgate and Crouch End, and specializes in large-scale paintings depicting stories from his Iranian heritage.

“It is set in the United States but unfolds as a historical account of what happened in its past in Afghanistan. The writer and producers had a vision of a symbolic hidden story unfolding alongside each episode. , like its own little world in the title sequence. My own work is very story-based. I use art as a medium to tell stories, and it was a story within a story.

Based on a 2nd-century Indian fable, the intricate artwork follows the journey of two jackals

Based on a 2nd-century Indian fable, the intricate artwork follows the journey of two jackals
– Credit: Hana Shahnavaz/FX

Co-directed by Jon Watts of Spider-Man No Way Home, with writer-producer John Steinberg, the FX series will premiere on Disney+ later this year.

“It was a big challenge, but I loved working with the design team to bring their story to life and shape abstract ideas. Traditional Persian art has so many meanings in the stories. The people who see the work may not know what it is about, but it will get them thinking and trying to figure it out.”

Shahnavaz, who makes her own paintings from rocks and minerals collected around the world, exhibits at the Saatchi Gallery’s StART art fair in October – a springboard for the careers of emerging artists. After graduating in Persian Studies from SOAS, she moved to Iran to study traditional music but “ended up falling into art”.

Images created for FX's The Old Man

Images created for FX’s The Old Man
– Credit: FX/Hana Shahnavaz

“I was surrounded by visual beauty and had found my thing,” she says. She studied at the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London, where she won an end-of-year prize and sold her work to the Islamic Museum of Malaysia. Since then she has gained international exposure and says of her large scale 2×1.5 meter pieces “you can connect with them on different levels”.

“The centerpiece will be the whole story and you may be amazed at how far away you are, but inside are side pieces and as you get closer you find layers within layers.”

Shahnavaz began using traditional materials of earth and paper, but found they had a limited palette, and now paints on canvas adding “interesting new pigments” to his paints, including Swarovski crystals. In her Saatchi Gallery exhibition The Tree of All Seeds, she also weaves her own characters and stories into traditional Persian tales to express her concerns about the climate crisis.

Cosmic Seed Magic from Hana Shahnavaz's upcoming The Tree of All Seeds exhibition at Saatchi Gallery

Cosmic Seed Magic from Hana Shahnavaz’s upcoming The Tree of All Seeds exhibition at Saatchi Gallery
– Credit: Courtesy of the artist

“Look deep into ancient human societies and we all lived in harmony with nature, connected to plants and animals,” she says. “The climate is important, so is reconnecting with nature, we can heal ourselves and we can heal the earth.

“I want to do contemporary art. I recycle great old images but I’m talking about something that’s relevant now. I have to do it in a positive way because I shut myself down if I’m confronted with scary, sad and pessimists, so I speak about sad, gloomy subjects in an uplifting way: “Go plant a seed. Let’s do that.” “

Hana Shahnavaz exhibits at StART art fair in October

Hana Shahnavaz exhibits at StART art fair in October
– Credit: Provided

The Saatchi Start show takes place from October 12 to 16. Visit startartfair.com/

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