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Partou Zia (9 October 1958 – 19 March 2008) was a British-Iranian artist and writer. Born in Tehran, she emigrated to England in 1970, where she completed her secondary education at Whitefields school near Hendon, London (1972–78). Zia studied Art History at the University of Warwick (1977–80) and at the Slade School of Fine Art (1986–91). In 2001, she completed a PhD[1] at Falmouth College of Arts and the University of Plymouth. In 1993, she moved to Cornwall where she lived and worked with her husband, the painter Richard Cook, until her death from cancer, in March 2008.[2] Tate St Ives honoured her parting by hanging one of her last completed canvases, Forty Nights and Forty Days as a memorial to her, for a month, at the gallery's entrance.[2]

Partou Zia
Born9 October 1958
Died19 March 2008 (2008-03-20) (aged 49)
OccupationArtist, Writer
Partner(s)Richard Cook

In 2003, Tate St Ives initiated a pioneering residency programme at the historic Porthmeor Studios in St Ives, Cornwall, previously occupied by Borlase Smart, Ben Nicholson and Patrick Heron. Zia was the first recipient of this award[3] and her exhibition at Tate St Ives[4] was accompanied by a catalogue 'Entering the Visionary Zone'.[5]



Early in Partou’s career, landscape provided the main inspiration for her work. The quest of the individual for the divine was a developing theme. A fascination for religious iconography was manifested in depictions of the overlooked corners of church interiors. Everyday objects such as books, lamps and chairs inhabited her images of domestic scenes, suggesting a desire to capture the essence of her long-lost childhood home. Her canvases at this time were dominated by an energetic application of heavily impastoed yellow, which for her represented the spiritual. Self-portraits, some of them nude, also formed an important part of her oeuvre, not only as a means of asserting her identity as a woman and a painter, but in order to reveal her intuitive self.

Partou's canvases bring a fresh note to the long established tradition of story telling. In scale her works range from a few inches to several feet high, with characteristic free brushwork and an immediately recognisable energetic handling of layers of paint. She has been inspired by the writing and illustrations of William Blake, and her work explores a personal journey of self-discovery. Through these vibrant, painterly canvases, she draws the viewer into her dream like memory. Her own language is highly original, evolving a personal mythology of motifs and symbols that include lovers, sleepers, dreamers and readers, set within evocative interiors or luminous landscapes.[6]

The paintings from the last few months of her life reflect a change of mood. The intense energy of her earlier canvases has given way to a more contemplative application of paint, as a consequence of her failing strength. In ‘40 Nights and 40 Days’ she reclines, in classical garb, resting her elbow on a pile of books – an indication, perhaps, that her work is done. She seems to be gazing beyond the present, the outstretched hand ready to guide her on the next step of her journey.

Solo exhibitionsEdit

2013 Portraits Beyond Self, Art First, London[7]

2008 In The Face of Wonder, The Exchange, Penzance[8]

Memorial Exhibition, Art First, London[9]

2007 Art First, London[10]

2005 The Grey Syllable, Art First, London[11][12]

2004 Thought Paintings, Art First, London[13]

2003 Entering the Visionary Zone, Tate St Ives[4]

2002 Art Space Gallery, London

2000 Art Space Gallery, London

Plymouth Art Centre

1999 Royal Cornwall Museum

1998 Newlyn Art Gallery[14]

1997 Thornton-Bevan Arts, London

Group exhibitionsEdit

2010 Meetings Of Dreams, The Wills Lane Gallery, St. Ives[15]

2009 ZOOM – Looking Back/Looking Forward, Art First, London[16]

2007 Art Now Cornwall, Tate St. Ives, Cornwall[17]

2006 12x12 Art First, London

2004 Spoilt for Choice: A Christmas Show, Art First, London

1999 Four Young Artists, Art Space, London

1998 In/Sight, Exeter University

1997 Gallery Artists I, Reeds Wharf Gallery, London

A Sense of Place, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London

1996 Landscapes from Penwith, Hastings Museum and Gallery

1996 Spring Open, Connaught Brown, London

1995 John Moores Exhibition 19, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

1994 Response to Landscape, Beatrice Royal Gallery, Southampton

1993 Salthouse Gallery, St Ives

1992 Carpenters Road Studios, London

1990 Works on Paper, The Boundary Gallery, London

1989Young Contemporaries, Whitworth Gallery, Manchester

Selected collectionsEdit


  1. ^ Partou Zia (2001). "Poetic anatomy of the numinous Creative passages into the self as beloved".
  2. ^ a b Florence, Penny (April 4, 2008). "Obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Partou Zia Artist in Residence 2003-2004". Archived from the original on 2008-06-21.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ a b "Residency, Tate St Ives in partnership with the Borlase Smart". Archived from the original on 2008-06-20.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  5. ^ Daniel-McElroy, essay by Virginia Button ; [introduction by Susan; Hughes], Sara (2003). Entering the visionary zone. London: Tate. ISBN 185437527X.
  6. ^ "Art First Biography".
  7. ^ "2013 Portraits Beyond Self, Art First, London".
  8. ^ "2008 In The Face of Wonder, The Exchange, Cornwall".
  9. ^ "Memorial Exhibition, Art First, London".
  10. ^ "2007 Partou Zia, Art First, London".
  11. ^ "2005 The Grey Syllable, Art First, London".
  12. ^ Partou Zia : the grey syllable. London: Art First. 2005. ISBN 1901993469.
  13. ^ "2004 Thought Paintings, Art First, London".
  14. ^ Zia, Partou (1996). Church paintings. Newlyn: Newlyn Art Gallery. ISBN 0953432408.
  15. ^ "2010 Meetings Of Dreams, The Wills Lane Gallery, St. Ives". Archived from the original on 2013-05-05.
  16. ^ "2009 Looking Back / Looking Forward, Art First, London".
  17. ^ "2007 Art Now, Tate St Ives, Cornwall".
  18. ^ "British Museum collection".

External linksEdit