By Roshanak Keyghobadi | May 7, 2013
حریم عشق را درگه بسی بالاتر از عقلست
کسی ان استان بوسد که جان در آستین دارد
The realm of love is in higher state than reason
The one who kisses the threshold of it is holding life in sleeve 
Above are the third and fourth lines of a poem by Hafez, which is frequently numbered 121 in his anthology. According to Mohammad Estelami (2009), the poem in its entirety discusses the value of love (in this case not mystical love) and its importance over materialistic wealth. The person who is not preoccupied with earthly possessions has a peace of mind, and indeed the one who has true love in his heart is the wealthiest. This is a state which neither logic nor reason can explain. In these particular two lines Hafez states that the realm of love stands higher than the realm of reason. One who becomes intimate with the realm of love (to the point of kissing it) has no fear of death. Mohammad Ehsaei has chosen these lines in particular to create his 1993 naqqashi khatt (painting calligraphy) titled Harim-e Eshq (Realm of Love).
The words of the poem are arranged in black and gold script resting on a red and gold background. Three Alefs and most Noqtehs (dots) are rendered in gold as is the center of the composition, where letters and words have created an enclosed golden space (realm). Just as the poem deals with the notions of happiness, wealth, reason, love, and death, and how concrete or relative their meanings are the connotation and symbolism of the colors fluctuate according to different interpretations. Red can be a symbol for love as well as death; black for mourning or reason; gold for wealth and earthly possessions or heavenly assets. Like most of Ehsaei’s naqqashi khatt works, it is difficult to read the poem and what is written in its entirety, since not only are the words out of order but also they are separated from their formal and linear format and context and rearranged in various spaces and locations throughout the composition. For instance, words may gravitate toward the central golden realm or burst out of it, yet the only word which immediately stands out and is the easiest to read is eshq (love), written in black with golden dots. As masters of the art of layering, both Hafez (verbally) and Ehsaei (visually) not only are in dialogue with each other but also set up the reader/viewer for a highly complex and sophisticated aesthetic quest. This is a pursuit for deciphering language, poetry, colors, forms and signs.
© Roshanak Keyghobadi, 2013
 Translated by Roshanak Keyghobadi.
 Khawajeh Shamsu Din Mohammad Hafez-e Shirazi was a 14th century Iranian poet.
 Estelami M. (Ed.) (2005). Dars-e Hafez: naghd va sharh-e ghazal ha-ye Hafez [Hafez lesson: Interpretation and description of ghazal’s of Hafez] In Persian. Tehran: Sokhan Publisher.
 Mohammad Ehasei is a contemporary Iranian master calligrapher and painter.
*Image by Mohammad Ehsaei, 1993, Harim-e Eshq (Realm of Love), Oil on canvas, 122×90 cm