Neda Dana-Haeri is very passionate about her Persian cultural heritage; she remembers her father used to quote excerpts from Ferdowsi’s The Book of Kings from memory, she describes the Book of Kings as the nationalistic epic of pre-islamic Iran. Coming from an academic family Neda studied psychology at University College London; she expected herself to be a serious professional and for years pursued a career as a marketing consultant, until the “Simorgh” plucked her from the business world and cast her into the infinity of the colour turquoise. Simorgh(Phoenix), who perpetually inspires Neda, translates from Persian as 30 birds and is the symbol of eternal rebirth and the complete circle of life.

Since completing her Fine Art degree at the Sir John Cass School of Art in London, she has not stopped painting in acrylic, ink and oil, her previous exhibition titles define the psyche of her work  Colourscape, Resonances, and Colours of Esfahan. Neda reads the poets of the past Rumi, Hafez and Farid-Uddin Attar—she reads in Persian but to English friends recommends the Attar and Hafez translations by Dick Davies. The words morph into symbolic colours and abstract themes, turquoise for Persia, crimson for enlightenment, a moon for beauty and the beloved, feathers for ephemerality and weightlessnessbut also for enlightenment by the Simorgh.Her work is based on what she calls “cultural memory and personal memory”, she says “re-reading the poems refreshes the memory as eventsnever end, they are always with you, the memory is now and changes every moment”.

Scrolls painted on Japanese rice paper.

Somehow Neda’sphilosophical element and her interest in the contemporary poetry of Tajalli(Taj) Keshavarz are fused together. Keshavarz, also a Professor in biochemical engineering,is inspired by ancient Egyptian, Indian and Persian philosophy. In collaboration, Neda and Tajhave published a book, paintings inspired by poems and poems inspired by paintings Unbound Expressions; when questioned which is which Neda replies “I can’t remember”, clearly demonstrating the degree of fusion and her theory of collective memory. The Unbound Expressions are in three languages English, Persian (Farsi), and the painted language.

Neda’s art takes her travelling, she has done residencies in Japan where she painted in ink on rice paper scrolls, the scrolls are symbolic of unfolding secrets and the black ink a reference to the ornamental calligraphy of the past. In India she was in thrall, allowing the influencesto soak in and come out her way, which was recording her journey around Jodhpur vertically on planks of wood, with elements of collage, calligraphy, painting and colour.

Neda lives in London’s West Hampstead and is still setting up her new studio in Bow Art Studios in Royal Albert Wharf; last year she exhibited in the magnificent atrium of  the lifestyle club Grace-Belgravia, the scale of which suited the echoes inherent in her work. Presently Neda is not working towards a particular exhibition, true to Sufi philosophy she waits for it to come to her.