Noureddin ZarrinKelk was born into a family of traditional Persian painters and calligraphers. In fact his last name means “Golden Pen” in Persian. But Noureddin, affectionately called Noori, also had a daring eye for adapting modern subjects, and perhaps it was also his fate to reimagine this 13th-century art form in a new light, as Noor means “light.”
He started his career at 16, drawing caricatures for Iranian magazines. After earning a Ph.D. in pharmacology, he worked as an illustrator trying to change the long-held tradition of imageless textbooks in Iran. While working at Iran’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, Noori saw how animated film can engage young audiences. He went to Belgium to study animation with Raoul Servais and was soon making films for children. He has since advanced Iranian animation almost singlehandedly by founding the country’s first animation school in 1974 and Iran’s branch of the International Animated Film Society in 1987.
Noori possesses a special humor which exists in all of his work. In The Mad, Mad, Mad World (1975), he portrays each continent on the globe transforming into a variety of animals barking or squawking at neighboring countries. But Noori is hesitant to speak about Iranian politics. Instead he works to encode profound political and social messages in his films, while sharing the culture and history of his country with a worldwide audience. His films express the need for global peace and understanding.
In his latest film, Bani Adam (2011), he brings together world leaders to recite a poem by 13th-century Persian poet Sa’adi about our common humanity.
Throughout his career, Noureddin ZarrinKelk has helped to find a distinct place for animation and graphic art in the broad field of painting. And Iranian artists are increasingly recognized and received with great respect worldwide, in large part because of Nouredddin’s persistence and hard work.
His creativity in animation and graphics is interwoven with powerful peculiarities of Iranian art and soul, making him one of the most renowned representatives of his country. At the same time, his art, with universal values, designates him as an artist of the world.