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The inspiration behind 'Poetry in Motion's illustration

poetry in motion illustration
1 Apr 2019

Graphic designer Homa Delvaray takes us through the inspiration behind the bold and colourful poster for the season.

Poetry In Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema was commissioned by the Bagri Foundation; the season was curated by award winning film producer/curator Elhum Shakerifar and curator Faye Harvey in partnership with the Barbican.

Poetry is an anchor of everyday life in Iran. The morality tales of Sufi poets such as Hafez and Sa’adi find their ways into Iranian lives – from the playground to the marital home, and buskers sell lines of poetry on the streets of Tehran. Poetry in Motion's poster designer Homa Delvaray takes us through the inspiration behind the bold and colourful poster for the season.

I was asked to design a poster for Poetry in Motion. Based on the title, I decided to create a poster with a poetic atmosphere, and I chose features and elements of contemporary Iranian poetry, both formally and conceptually, as the main idea and source of inspiration for designing the poster. The design process and idea resulted from these steps:

۱/1, using nature and its elements

From the past to recent times, Iranian poets have always been influenced by nature and its elements such as the sea, waves, birds, flowers, sky and more. These poems by Rumi (classical poet) and Ahmad Shamlou (modern poet) are good examples:

If the storm were calm, then heavens would not turn; It is from that divergent wave that the six poles have been stirred! —Rumi


The sea sits cold; A branch, in the darkness of the forest, Screams towards the light —Ahmad Shamlu


۲/2, using elements differently in order to create new forms and perspectives

Contemporary poets tried to use the conventional elements differently, for instance: Sohrab Sepehri (who is one of the most famous modern Iranian poets) believed that 'We must wash our eyes / We must see differently'.

To him, new forms were new means of expressing his thoughts and feelings. He also said:

I do not know why they say that the horse is a noble animal, that the dove is beautiful And why there is never a vulture in anyone’s cage What does the red tulip have that the clover lacks? —Sohrab Sepehri

So I chose the crow as one of the elements of the poster, because I thought: why is a nightingale lovelier than a crow? Furthermore, the crow has a wide presence in Persian literature and contemporary poetries. This poem by Forugh Farrokhzad (modern poet) is a good example  


To the flock of crows That gift me with The perfume of the farms at night —Forugh Farrokhzad


۳/3, creating a poster with contradictions and multiple voices

In my opinion, the atmosphere of a poem is the product of many contradictions and multiple voices, such as: happiness and unhappiness, hope and frustration, black and white, etc. So, I tried to create this mood and theme by using opposing elements and colours.

۴/4, creating a polyphonic poster in order to encourage different interpretations

 think there is no fixed meaning to poetry, only different interpretations. So I used elements from movies and poems to create a polyphonic poster with several layers, for example: the shining beam in the background of the poster could be the sun, a glass orb, a bubble, the tune of the clock or even the tunnel from the movie Atomic Heart. I tried to create a structure that is as open and free as poems; a structure in which the audience feel free to bring various interpretations and personal impressions based on their imagination.


۵/5, literalising the concept Poetry in Motion

As the title of the event was Poetry in Motion, I thought the foreground layer could be in 'motion' too. I decided to have two layers: the background layer which contains the sea and the foreground layer which contains the clouds. I divided the Persian translation of the title into two parts, set the first part on the sea and placed the second part on the clouds.



Poetry in Motion's curator Elhum Shakerifar adds:

Finally, the poster also literalises the concept of 'poetry in motion' – which is written in 3D Persian text (translated as the single word 'shāerāneh' – which literally means 'poet-like' in English) and which is broken up into the background (sea) and the foreground (clouds). This playfulness means that it’s not immediately obvious that this is a single word, and what that word is.

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