The Road of Life

The idea for it was inspired by a scene in one the Koker Trilogy of films directed by the acclaimed Iranian film-maker Abbas Kiarostami, comprised of: “Where is the Friend’s Home?” (1987), “Life and Nothing More” (1992) and “Through the Olive Trees” (1994). All of them were filmed in the village of Koker in the northern part of Iran which was ravaged by a strong earthquake and focused on the shared theme about life’s preciousness after the great losses resulting from the natural disaster. In the Trilogy’s films, the audience sees the stories of different people trying to pick up what is left of the pieces of their lives and putting them together to start anew.

“Through the Olive Trees” depicts the drama between two non-professional actors in the Trilogy. Their story revolves around the proposal for marriage made by a young man to a girl whose family won’t accept it because he is poor and illiterate. She keeps avoiding him when they are on the set of the film. In the final scene they are walking on a zigzag shaped road upwards a hill. This seems to be the moment when she finally gives an answer to him and we see how he turns around and descends back on the road through the olive groves. The audience is left to wonder what response was given by the girl.

This is exactly how life is in most cases – nothing is black and white.

I liked Kiarostami’s zigzag road and positioned it in a vast field comprised of eight consecutive smaller sections aligned from bottom to top on the canvas. Each of these sections is symbolic on the path of life:

1st section: is the inside of the home which is sacred and provides us with shelter, warmth, safety, sustenance, sense of belonging, support, understanding, encouragement, beauty, dreams, etc. These are all expressed through the pretty flower pots, fruits and the lace cover of the large table on which they are placed. The home is the starting point in most people’s lives. It is the place that defines our core and roots.

2nd section: shows the threshold to the outside world – a sturdy wooden balcony railing. It protects us while we are young, but a time comes when we are ready to leave the home. The choice to return is up to every one individually. If we decide to leave it for good, the thread that ties us to it may brake; we can restore it, however, a knot will always remain. However, life is stronger and before such a decision is made, we have to go outside and take the path of life.

3rd section: is the beginning of the start of our life which is usually in Spartan conditions. It is illustrated through the bare and cracked soil which hasn’t been cultivated yet. We work that soil, water it and plant our first trees there in the hope that they will grow into a forest.

4th section: is the period of life in which we collect knowledge and learn. Before us lay fields filled with numerous ears of wheat – knowledge is not straightforward. Hence not all ears of wheat can be golden.

5th section: is the part of life in which we have collected enough knowledge and experience. The large grove of olive trees symbolizes this knowledge. The Olive tree is a symbol of wisdom, fertility, prosperity, health, luck, victory, stability and the foundation of the home and roots shaping who and what we are.

6th section: is the time in life when we think about what we can give back to our families and communities. It is illustrated by various crops, trees and plants. These are the fruits of our labour, personal growth through the years, which we share with others. It is by no chance that they are placed on mountainous grounds – this is symbolic of the difficulties associated with this part of life.

7th section: is the period when we achieve the ability to synthesize. Synthesis involves pulling together knowledge and experience gained in life and processing it to arrive at wisdom. Usually, such factors as age, experience, intelligence, knowledge, intuition, common sense, and personality variables underlie wisdom, but no one has attempted to link these factors to say what exactly wisdom is. In visual terms, I have tried to depict wisdom in this painting as a mountain, majestic and humble. It has varying faces – it can be inviting and sunny, but it can also be dangerous and full of surprises.

8th section: is probably most difficult to describe because of the mixed feelings it calls in me as I have little knowledge about its essence. This is the last part of the road of life, but does not represent death. I would best coin it “illumination”. I think it is not given to everyone to achieve. I chose to represent it through the turn the road of life takes beyond the mountains and into the horizon where it fuses with the skies. There are translucent clouds there, birds, plenty of sunlight whose rays illuminate the previous sections of life.

Throughout all these periods in life, the only certain thing is the road on which we all walk from our birth onwards. These phases can interchange and take place in a different order, they can skip or omit certain levels, or one can get stuck in a certain phase never to continue on to the remaining ones. Life is versatile. It offers us many opportunities to learn.