INTERVIEW WITH SHAHRAM KARIMI
December 17, 2016 - Lisa Pollman
Please tell us about your early life as an artist. Were you always interested in being an artist? Did your move to Germany have an impact on your art and the techniques that you employed? How?
I was the youngest child in a cultural and artistic household. I started drawing and painting when I was 9 years old, influenced by my brother Jamshid, who was a painter then. I also had a brother who was a poet. I used to draw the portraits of our guests as a child. I then went to art school and participated in some exhibitions before the age of 18.
In terms of my migration to Germany and its influence on my work and technique, it was like coming out of a bathtub into a sea. I tried not to be overwhelmed, not to be a function of this new scene completely, and maintain some of my personal, authentic experiences.
Your work displays a strong connection to Persian identity and tradition. Please tell us how these aspects influence you and your work.
After moving abroad, I tried to review Persian painting history with a new eye, especially using the pardeh_khani (narrating a story with pictures) tradition. These readings and studies helped me to find my personal artistic language. You can see this in different aspects of my work, for example my use of colours and special blue colour that you can find in my works.
Do you incorporate your poetry and myth into your work? How?
I came from Shiraz, which is the poetry capital of Iran - so from an early age, I was interested in poetry. For my works I usually start with my own texts, and then incorporate them into my works. I believe myths and old poems are somehow documents of our own past. I’m also interested in the epic poem Shahnameh and try to give a new reading of this ancient work through my paintings.
Please tell us about your work with pardeh khani (Narrating a story with pictures) and how this tradition influences your work.
When I was a child, my uncle used to give me old religious books with intricate designs, and I used to copy them. I was also very interested in travelling storytellers who used to come to different neighborhood for pardeh_khani.
In making these pardeh khani works, you have also collaborated with the film maker Shoja Azari and one of the series of your video projections on painted canvas, called “Silence” resulted out of that partnership. Please tell us a little more about this work and how your collaboration started.
These video-paintings are a new experience for me. We capture scenery with cameras and try to work them out on canvas, with special attention to lights and colours and how these change from one medium to another. In this way, paintings on canvas become alive and find new texture and depth.
*Some of your work has included figures from Shahrnush Parsipour’s “Women Without Men”, Faezeh and renowned Egyptian singer Om Kolthum. Where do you get your inspiration from regarding the subject matters of your work?
I think painting is more important than subject matter. You need to find your subject matter in the process of painting. So I try not to include clichés like calligraphy and headscarves and chador in my works. These are exotic, Orientalist ideas that incorporate a ready-made identity for us, and I try to avoid them in my works.
As a diaspora artist, are you able to as you say on the Janet Rady Fine Art website “unravel the dust of oblivion from your memory” through your art? How?
Your homeland and culture is something that you cannot get rid of. I am trying to restore its lost beauties in my works. So, personally, I try to preserve these through my works.
I believe that you are in the process of re-establishing your studio in Tehran. Can you please tell us more about this project, when it will be complete?
Yes, in addition to my studios in Germany and New York, I recently established a studio for myself in the Tehran suburbs. I want to try to work more in Iran from now on. And I’m currently working for a new exhibition in Iran during 2017.
Any forthcoming exhibitions or projects planned?
I’m currently curating two shows for MANA Museum in New York. The first is from Iranian-American artists living in America. The second one is works by five women video artists in Iran, chronicling video art development in Iran after works by such well-known artists as Shirin Neshat.
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