Profiling the Young Persian Artist, Amirali Bashiri
Throughout history, artists have referenced everyday objects to tell complex stories and express deep emotions.
In the 17th century, Dutch artists painted still life to tell philosophical, religious or moral stories. Jan Davidz, for example, deceptively caught audiences off-guard with his inviting scenes of fruit and wine which actually confronted them with the vanity of their aspirations.
Artists of the early 20th century loved to paint a nice sunflower, bright red goldfish, brilliant yellow lemons, or a colourful floral skirt, to express their intense feelings about the world around them.
And, of course, the Pop Art movement and its cans of soup, gigantic hamburgers and Mickey Mouse figurines that re-introduced irony into art, questioned celebrity cults and consumerist aspirations.
Everyday life and objects continue to be a popular reference for artists today. For example, I was delighted by the latest work of Alexandra Bircken who cut in half a motorcycle to reveal its insides and open “heart” (currently on display at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam).
In a similar way, the sculptural work of Young Persian Artist Amirali Bashiri references daily objects to reflect the dualities, contradictions and insecurities that exist in the society in which he lives.
He uses the recurring motive of the drain to both unsettle and confront his audience.
The danger of going “down the drain” lurks beneath a seemingly peaceful grouping of chairs, or inside a harmless public phone.
Over a cup of sweet rose tea for me and herbal tea for him, Amirali told me a little more about himself and his work.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work.
I was born in 1984 and currently live in Tehran. I finished school with a diploma in maths, but it was clear to me that my vocation lay elsewhere. When looking at flat graphical forms, I always saw things in 3D. So when it came to going to university, I decided to study sculpture at the University of Tehran College of Fine Arts.
During my studies, I made a lot of short videos of what was going on around me. I always found the dualities present in simple daily life or the contradictions between the outside world and what goes on behind closed doors extremely interesting. In some ways, this is what inspires my art.
When and how did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
While I was a student, I had no idea what being an artist actually meant. In fact, the legal constraints in which we studied meant that we had to look at sculpting from a very different angle. When you aren’t allowed to study anatomy, bodies, nudes, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what your craft really means. Modernism is fabulous, but straight lines can only take you so far.
When I finished my studies I was working at a coffee shop on top of a cinema in the centre of town. On Wednesdays, we always had curated music sessions. Among the regulars at these sessions was Jinoos Taghizadeh, an artist who I really looked up to. She told me to take my work and ideas to 13 Vanak Street, a production and exhibition space owned by the renowned artist Freydoun Ave. Speaking with him and learning about how other great artists, young and old, achieved their goals helped me see the vast opportunities for artistic expression. At that point, I began to know what being an artist could possibly mean. Mr. Ave recommended I take some time and produce something to be exhibited at the gallery. This was perhaps the first time I thought of what it meant to make art for exhibiting in a commercial gallery and even though I never exhibited at 13 Vanak Street it got me thinking. I ended up working with Aaran Gallery after that and the rest is history.
What inspires you?
I live in a very busy part of town. It’s full of humans, cars and life. During the days leading up to the Persian New Year when everyone is busy finalising everything for the festivities, there are so many humans walking on my street, I can barely get through. All have a story to tell, all have history and a reality of their own. I am inspired by the everyday happenings right outside my door.
What are you doing when you are not making art?
Well, the Iranian New Year has just gone by and, for the second year in a row, I have been involved in a pop-up culinary-theatrical project. Together with a few friends (who happen to be involved in theatre or film acting, directing, costume design and more) we take over the historic and beautiful Masoudieh mansion in central Tehran, serving specialty teas, meals, talk, gather and temporarily re-invigorate this fantastic historic landmark. Luckily we have obtained permission to continue to receive visitors and guests every weekend for the duration of the year.
If you could own any two pieces of art, old or new, what would they be?
Salvador Cidras (Interview, 3 Kinds of Casting) and Rachel Whiteread (House).
A solo show soon. It’s actually been in the making for a while.
Amirali Bashiri is represented by Aaran Gallery and currently lives and works in Tehran.