IMAN RAAD, Disturbance to reality

IMAN RAAD,
Disturbance to reality

Drawing from Persian miniature painting, South Asian truck ornaments and digital glitch imagery, Iman Raad’s work has immediately impressed me because of its intensity, its explosive mix of colours and the contradictory combination of beauty and fear, pleasure and pain. Looking at his paintings the viewer witnesses a moment of rupture, a frozen moment of reality when something is about to happen.

In this interview this Iranian born Brooklyn based artist guides us through his latest work that has been recently shown at the Sargent’s Daughters Gallery in New York.

Observing your work, you’re using elements of folklore Persian mythology such as typographic details and allusions to Persian miniature. Is this Iranian culture and folklore an important source of inspiration for you?

Yes, It has always been sort of like that. But it’s actually beyond a source of inspiration. It’s a basis of my thinking structure, either subconscious or brought on consciously.

I attempt not to indicate “iconically” to Persian culture in my work, so you could hardly recognize elements of folklore. Iconic indication to “other ” cultures is a Western approach to art because it’s an obvious representation of other cultures and is available to be taken out of its context and is easy to communicate and so to consume.

“But my work constantly refers to Persian culture “indexically”, since this is rooted in my thoughts. I have lived with this culture, I breath it, I learn from it and I construct my language to dialogue with art history through it.”

This is, I believe, the contemporary approach to ethnicity and cultural identity.

You’ve recently had a solo show “Tongue Tied” at the Sargent’s Daughters Gallery in New York. Could you explain a little bit more your latest work for this show.

In the exhibition there was a variety of works that I have made in 2016, all under the umbrella of one single title: ”Tongue Tied’.

“To me paintings represent a moment of disturbance to reality.”

I create this disturbance through wrong perspective, disordering physical rules, image replication inspired by digital glitch on screens as well as representing momentary events as threshold of a crisis. Objects and fruits appear to be self-conscious animate things.

In the ‘Tongue Tied” show there is a series of 9×12 inch egg-tempera paintings that were lying down on their individual narrow shelves. I recently started painting with egg-tempera on panels. The process is slow and tiring which I hate, though I seriously need this sort of meditative time. I enjoy the way egg’s yolk flows on smooth surface of claybord panels, and so the texture that unmixed pigments make. The colors are bright and I like the way it looks like painted tiles.

I also showed a large marker painting on paper that I’ve created earlier. This drawing represent a complex interplay of ornamental tablecloth, wallpaper and carpet interrupted by long rows of overlapping birds move across the painting. It took me a month to finish this 5-foot-by-7-foot drawing.

The Hero of the exhibition, I sometimes call it Don Quixote, is a flat figure kneeling down with a flag in his hand and a self-portrait of me on his chest imitating Barbara Kruger’s work “Your Body is a Battleground”.

The show also includes a site-specific large-scale mural painting on the walls of Sargent’s Daughters Gallery’s office. This was made in four days with two assistants and lasted for the exhibition time.

You’ve done also a lecture performance called “Two-headed Imagomancy” with Shahrzad Changalvaee, another Iranian artist and your wife: What does the title mean and what is this performance about?

Shahrzad and I both come from a graphic design background. We were members of the Dabireh Collective before we left Iran. The Dabireh Collective was founded by Reza Abiding in 2008. It was a collective of graphic designers, type designers and linguists researching with a focus on Persian language, alphabet, calligraphy and typography.
Since we’ve been moving to the US we got offers to talk about our graphic works and we decided to turn our talk to a collaborative lecture-performance in form of storytelling.

“Its form is inspired by Pardeh-khani, a form of storytelling tradition common in coffee-houses in Iran.”

Our narrative comes with stories within stories, some historicals, some personals, some myths or fictions. But all stories deal with language and script, mainly Persian-Arabic script history. Each performance has an exclusive unique backdrop painting, containing illustrations for the story and a significant image referring to the venue that it’s happening in.

“Two-headed” in the title refers to us as the storyteller couple and “imagomancy”, we made it by combination of imago + mancy. “Imago” is the Latin word for “Image” and “-mancy” refers to the divination of a particular kind, like bibliomancy, geomancy or palmomancy. So “Imagomancy” means the divination by means of images.

The poems of Hafiz or Rumi are very present in everyday life in Iran. Is there a poem that guides you through life?

Not really any specific I could remember. Maybe generally as you say it’s present in Iranians everyday-life, it has affected my thoughts subconsciously like almost all Iranians.

Any future projects?

To keep working.

Credits:
All works by Iman Raad
Text: Anahita Vessier
 http://www.imanraad.com/

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GIDEON RUBIN, The craftsman of faceless memories

GIDEON RUBIN, Craftsman of faceless memories

Gideon Rubin is a contemporary Israeli artist and a rising star in the international art scene.

His work is about the memory of something that is at the point of fading away. By blurring identifying details, erasing the facial features of human beings, he invites the viewer to complete these unexisting details by using his very own memories. This “dialogue” creates a very personal relationship between the artwork and the audience and evokes a feeling of intimacy and nostalgia.

Being the grandson of Reuven Rubin, the famous Israeli painter, did this influence your decision to become a painter?

Looking back obviously it did but it took a long time for it to come out.

I was about 22 years old when I started painting and if you’d ask me before what’s the least possible career or job prospect, painter would have probably topped the list, mainly because of my grandfather and the position he occupies within the canon of Israeli art. For years, for me, viewing his work was actually tainted by the fame his work carries with it back home.

“It was not just a flower, a house or a portrait, it was a “Rubin” first.”

I guess this was probably the main reason that when I finally did find ‘painting’, a life long commitment, I chose to do it outside my home. It was only then that I discovered so much of his work; sensitivities, paint application, tonality and how much of it actually filtered to my DNA.

You were in New York on September 11th, 2001. Did this experience have an influence on your work?

It changed my life so it definitely changed my work as well.
Before 9/11 I used to paint from observation, focusing on full figure self-portraits that took months to finish.

When I got back to London on the first commercial flight to leave NY, it felt as if I escaped hell. I was so happy to land in London, I wanted to kiss the ground but I just couldn’t paint like before. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore so I began making these small toy still-life paintings.
Instead of one portrait, painted for three months, I painted now three paintings a day. It felt as if I was unloading a huge burden. As artists we are lucky, we have our work in order to deal with all the shit that happens around us.

Being a sort of « craftsman of memories », each of your paintings has this incomplete detail of faceless human beings. What is the reason, the intention behind these portraits without features?

More than anything it’s an abstraction tool, a way I enjoy directing and dissecting what I see and the surface of the painting. Simplifying it.
Growing up I was fascinated by the little figures in my grandfather’s landscape paintings; just little blobs of paint to describe a face, limbs or body. In my work I try to strike a balance between the general and the specific, the ‘public’ and the ‘individual’, which I find fascinating.

When I began erasing the facial features it was something altogether different. Painting old toys I was reacting to the physical erasure of the doll features after years of being handled and played with kids. As my work shifted back to portraiture, I found out fairly quickly that I can describe what I need without the features.

“I was and still am fascinated by how much information we gather between us that is outside the face.”

Our mannerism, style, the way we dress, walk etc. We ‘read’ each other and any human portrait, by first and for-most our facial features and then everything else. I’m interested in reversing this process, everything else comes first and then leave an opening, a question mark. an untold story. For me the act of erasing is as important and positive as a mark making.

While working on your paintings, how do you perceive time in these very intense and creative moments?

It’s difficult to put these moments in words, especially, if words are not your thing and you don’t want to sound cheesy.
But if I have to I can say that I learned not to look for these moments. Just work and work. When they come, it’s great, you are in the action itself and there is nothing else, but as soon as you begin to think about it, acknowledging you are or were in “it”, it is gone.

Is there an author, an artist, a musician that has changed your perception of art and inspired you in your process of creating?

Velasquez, Goya, Rembrandt, Chardin, Soutine, Guston, Manet, Bacon, Freud, Morandi, Alys, Richter, Rotheko, Matisse, Picasso, Diebenkorn, Hemingway, Kerouac, Camus, David Grossman, Primo Levy, Leonard Cohen, Bowie, Dylan, Allen, Tarantino, Almodovar, Nina Simone I can go on and on…

What do you feel when you’ve just finished a painting and you look at it?

Disappointment, as if I could have done it better. Sometimes it’s true, luckily sometimes not.

Is there a quote, a proverb that guides you through life?

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” (Pablo Picasso)

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a complex way. An artist says a complex thing in a simple way.” (Charles Bukowski)

Do you work with music? What’s your favourite musician that you listen to at the moment in your studio?

It shifts, at the moment I’m listening to a bit of soul like Erica Badu, Lauren Hill and my usual outdated Jazz, Nina Simone, Coltrane, Miles Davis to a bit of Bowie and Leonard Cohen. Lately, I find I listen more to classical music. Piano, a lot of piano…

Any upcoming exhibitions?

This year taking part in the Jerusalem biennale in September and a solo show in Cyprus in May and Tel Aviv in December.

Next year is very busy, a solo exhibition at the Freud museum here in London followed by one in San Francisco and then my first in Korea.

You were recently invited by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chengdu in China to a group exhibition under the title “Memory Goes As Far As This Morning”. This invitation also gave you the opportunity to visit the province of Xinjiang which is home of the Uyghur, an ethnic minority that primarily practices Islam. How was this experience for you?

It was really quite remarkable, a once in the life time experience. I was specifically interested, as my wife, although mainland Chinese, was born in Xinjiang, in Korla and I have heard much about the Turkic peoples where she was born. Their look is closer to Israeli than Chinese she used to tell me and that I would like the food.

“She was right in many aspects and I could find quite a few similarities between the Uyghur people and people from the Middle East.”

It was a very different experience than traveling in China, mainly due to very tight security, a result of years of political unrest, which I have to say added to an uneasy feeling throughout but this huge area has so much more to offer, a unique history of the ancient silk road which is incredibly preserved due to the dry weather conditions, to the highest snow peaked mountains that look as if they were taken from the Swiss alps.

From the vibrant markets full of spices to the beautifully hand crafted artifacts, and the beautiful scarfed women, it all seemed to belong to a different time and a magical place.

What comes to your mind when you think of Iran?

Generally I always think of how I enjoy meeting Iranians since I moved to NY and then London. I find so much in common and much to appreciate, from my point
of view, food and cinema come first to mind. ‘A Separation’, ‘About Elly’…
I also think it’s a shame that I can’t visit.
I see the meeting points, the dialogue, the art.

Credits:
Portray by Shira Klasmer
All other photos by Richard Ivy
Paintings:
“Boy”, 56x51cm, oil on canvas, 2011
“Untitled”, 66x71cm, oil on linen, 2012
“Pond”, 200x150cm, oil on linen, 2016
“Class of 1947 (Prom)”, 12 paintings each 25x20cm, oil on linen, 2012
“Yellow Blindfold”, 107x102cm, oil on canvas, 2015
“Policemen”, 35.5×30.5cm, oil on linen, 2015
“Untitled”, 26x19cm, gouache on paper, 2015
“Sunset”, 150x200cm, oil on linen, 2016
Text: Anahita Vessier
http://www.gideonrubin.com/

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AMIN MONTAZERI, Tales and myths of melancholy

AMIN MONTAZERI,
Tales and myths of melancholy

The Iranian art scene has extraordinary artists who find a way to bridge their rich Persian traditional cultural heritage with modern western art.
Amin Montazeri is definitely one of those new talents we need to keep an eye on.

When I discovered the work of this young Iranian artist from Tehran I was impressed by the rich, mysterious, apocalyptic atmosphere of his paintings and touched by their melancholy.
His work is as intense and obscure as Pieter Brueghel’s or Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings.

Amin Montazeri’s main subject is history and the role of tales, legends and myths in history. Everyone encounters in life theses tales but sometimes people try to flee from their destiny, change it and write a new story. What are the consequences, and which kind of tale would ensue out of this change?

He also questions in his work the recurrence of history caused by an observable forgetfulness of man even if it was linked to painful or terrifying experiences.

Amin Montazeri was born in 1992 and is doing currently an MA in Painting at the College of Fine Arts in Tehran.
His upcoming exhibition will be at the Dastan Gallery in Tehran in October and he might also show his work at this year’s Art Dubai.

Credits:
All works by Amin Montazeri
Text: Anahita Vessier
http://www.instagram.com/aminmontazery/

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SILIA KA TUNG, Fantasy is interior world’s reality

SILIA KA TUNG, Fantasy is interior world’s reality

Silia Ka Tung is a Chinese contemporary artist based in London. Her work is a psychedelic ballet of organic shapes in saturated colours dancing together with mysterious creatures reminding us of ancient mythology. The mix of this modern dreamland and the influences of Chinese culture and tradition make Silia Ka Tung’s art so hypnotizing and unique.

What made you decide to become an artist?

My grand-father from my mum’s side was an established traditional Chinese painter, so it was in the family.
I initially wanted to be a designer. When I went to a school interview after high-school to study design they told me I should do fine arts if my parents will support me. That was actually the first time it came to my mind.

You were studying Oil Painting in HangZhou at the China Academy of Fine Arts and then continued your studies in London finishing with a MFA in painting at the renowned Slade School of Fine Arts. Is the style of teaching in China different than in England?

I did one year of art school in China after being accepted to a BA at Chelsea College of Art in London because my father thought that I needed to learn some “Chinese culture”. That’s why I went to an art foundation class before going to London doing my BA.

“The style of teaching is very different in China than in England. In China I was doing life drawing every day and the schooling was very academic. You do everything in a group, the teacher comes and corrects your mistakes and tells you what you need to do.”

London art school was fun and free. The teaching style is very casual and inspirational but you were left alone most of the time.

There’s a real evolution in your work. Your earlier work was mostly black-and-white line drawings, and then the figurative lines dissolved and became a beautiful ballet of colorful, abstract shapes of organisme covering several canvases.
In your recent work you’ve changed from painting to experimenting with materials and creating soft sculptures of fantasy animals and organic shapes such as branches of trees. Why did you change from painting to making sculptures?

“Drawing or doodling is always part of my life … I just do it as soon as I have a pen in my hand. ”

For my BA final show at Chelsea College I decided to develop from a small drawing idea into something big and these life size portraits filled with doodles lasted until my second year of MFA at the Slade College but then I wanted to try something different. I wanted to do “game paintings”, colourful, saturated paints directly onto the canvas, like automatic drawings.
Painting for me is about game, chance and fun and I always paint around the edges. Slowly I was drawn towards painting onto objects. So I started making soft sculptures to paint over. That’s where I am now.

Did motherhood change your work, your inspirations?

Motherhood is difficult for me as an artist because of the change of your priorities and of your life-balance. As much as I enjoy being with my two daughters, I found myself struggling to be an artist. But time helps and slowly you regain some of the balance and hopefully being a mother also has positive impact on my work.

Is there a phrase, a proverb that inspires your work?

“All our interior world is reality, and that perhaps more than our apparent world. ”
Marc Chagall

When you work on a new art piece, do you show your husband Gideon Rubin, who is also an artist, the work-in-progress or do you prefer to keep your creative bubble as private as possible?

We work in the same studio, so often we show each other what we’re working on, especially when my work takes relatively long to finish. I mainly show him to ask his opinion, no matter if the piece is finished or not.

Are you working on a new exhibition?

I am finishing some pieces for a three persons group show in Amsterdam called “Father, Mother, Daughter, Son” curated by Mette Samkalden at Canvas Contemporary. The exhibition opens on 14th January 2017 and goes until mid February.

What comes to your mind when you think of Iran?

I’ve never been to Iran, so everything I know about this country is through friends, movies, news, Instagram. Yes, I hashtagged Iran on Instagram a few times and it led me to very weird places.
It’s a big country rich in history and culture, beautiful and mysterious. It’ll be great to visit one day.

Credits:
All works by Silia Ka Tung
Text: Anahita Vessier
http://www.siliakatung.com/

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SLAVS AND TATARS, A new vision of Eurasian Art

SLAVS AND TATARS, A new vision of Eurasian Art

Slavs and Tatars is an art collective founded by Kasia and Payam, a Polish-Iranian duo, who dedicate their work to an area east from the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China. Anahita’s Eye follows their work for a long time and had the chance to interview them while they were preparing their exhibition “Afteur Pasteur” in New York at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Why the name “Slavs and Tatars”? And why this devotion to an area, as you describe “east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China”?

Usually a name is chosen for what one represents or who one purports to be. We decided on Slavs and Tatars for the opposite reason: for that which we are not. Our name is a mission statement of sorts: to devote ourselves to a geography that is equally imagined as it is political, to a region that falls through the cracks of our amnesiac floors.

“It happens to be largely Muslim but not the Middle East, it is largely Russian-speaking but not Russia, and though largely in Asia, only a small part (Xinjiang) has historically been under Chinese rule.

There’s of course an element of humour in the name too. We founded Slavs and Tatars in 2006, shortly after the entry of the new member states in 2004 into the European Union. If you recall, there was quite a bit of prejudice, if not hysteria, about this ‘other’ Europe, namely Eastern European states joining what Europeans had imagined themselves until then an exclusive club. There was the infamous Polish plumber, the Bulgarian builder, etc…The name Slavs and Tatars clearly plays up this fear–both in a contemporary and historical sense–as if there were hordes waiting to rape and pillage à la Braveheart.

Our name–Slavs and Tatars–is not an identity, it marks the collapse of identity. Even between these two terms, “Slavs” and “Tatars” there is a whole story of confluence and tension. It is only by accumulating several identities–and negotiating the tensions between them–that one can begin to move beyond the reductive and brittle identity politics which continue to plague us.

Explain me your creative process. What are your inspirations? Why did you finally chose sculpture/object art as your main tool of expression?

Sculptures, installations and exhibitions are only one of our three activities and by no means the main one, alongside publications and lecture performances.

We currently present 2-3 lecture-performances per month in different venues: from universities to art institutions. We generally work along three-year cycles. The first two years are dedicated to research on a given subject of investigation: first bibliographic research, for example, into Turkic language politics or the medieval genre of political advice literature known as “mirrors for princes” followed by field research, say, to Xinjiang to experience more affectively the ideas that we’ve been exploring more analytically. Then the crucial question arises:

“What are we as artists bringing to the table that is distinct from the work of others, policy makers, scholars, activists…?

The translation or transformation of this research into art work is perhaps the most difficult. In the beginning, we worked exclusively with print: if someone wanted to engage with our work, she had to read. There are few things less pleasant, less considerate to the public than putting something to read on a wall. Even though the practice proliferated – to include sculpture, installations, lecture-performances – walls somehow did not become any more attractive in our eyes. If we live in an age of visual glut, then we are amongst the (many) guilty enablers!

Among the three axes of our practice, the lectures and publications articulate a series of concerns that the sculpture, installation, the material art work with a capital ‘A’ must disarticulate. That does not mean to remain silent: rather to undo, unravel these very ideas, like a loose thread of a sweater.

Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?

“Quit this world. Quit the next. And quit quitting”
–Thomas Merton

Does each of you have a very defined role in “Slavs and Tatars”?

Yes, but we edit each other rigorously.

In many of your installations you invite people to interact with it, touch it, sit on it, lie on, discuss on it. Is this direct confrontation and personal experience that people have with your artwork an important part of your artistic concept?

Definitely. It is also a commitment to the idea of contemplation in spaces devoted to culture. Too often, the only place to sit in a museum is the cafe, or the rare bench in front of a masterpiece. If art is to play a transformative role, and not only an educational and entertaining one, the venue of its activation must be more hospitable.

Slavs and Tatars speak so many different languages, Farsi, Polish, English, French, Russian etc. Language and the linguistic complexity is a very important subject in your work. Why this intense love for languages?

Translation becomes a form of linguistic hospitality, to quote Paul Ricoeur. We invite the Other into our language and the expropriating ourselves into the language of the Other. We are different people in each language: our sense of humour in French is not at all similar to that in Russian or Persian, etc.

“Language allows you to “other” yourself.”

Is humour an essential ingredient in your artwork?

Absolutely, it has always played a very important role in our work: as a disarming form of critique, as an extension of generosity, as an indication of infrapolitics: as defined by James Scott: the hidden transcript, the whispered stories.

“Every joke is a tiny revolution”

to quote Orwell, rather than the often confrontational, explicitly visible politics of the march, the news, or the state.

What are your future projects?

We’re currently preparing for our first show with our NY gallery, Tanya Bonakdar, on pickle politics, or a reconsideration of our relationship with the Other, via our relationship with the original foreigner: the microbe and bacteria. We’re also working on a mid-career retrospective for 2017-2018, between Warsaw, Vilnius, and perhaps Istanbul.

You have a very cosmopolite live, your art is shown at art fairs and exhibitions all around the world. Is there any special object that accompanies you on your trips around the world?

We try as much as possible to travel with fresh herbs – a bunch of tarragon, a couple stems of coriander – to soften the blow of eating en route in trains, planes and automobiles.

Slavs and Tatars, what comes to your mind when you think about Iran?

Mulberries

Credits:
All works by Slavs and Tatars
Kitab Kebab, 2016 – ongoing
Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz, published by Book Works / Sharjah Art Foundation
Mother Tongues and Father Throats, Moravian Gallery, Brno (2012)
Dig the Booty (2009)
Pray Way (2012)
Installation view at Trondheim Kunstmuseum
left: Larry nixed, Trachea trixed (2015) right: Tongue Twist Her (2013)
Lektor, sound installation, Leipzig (2014-15)
AÂ AÂ AÂ UR, Skulpturpark Köln (2015)
http://www.slavsandtatars.com

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