Who are these men? Why do they look so displeased? Why did the artist make them? That’s what I thought when I came across Mohammad-Hossein Gholamzadeh’s statues of male figures. I saw two of them in Tehran’s hip Sam Cafe and a few at Dastan’s Basement gallery. So I found him on Facebook, got his number and called him up. Here is what we said.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My full name is Mohammad Hossein Gholamzadeh and I was born in 1986. I live and work in Tehran. In college, I studied maths and physics and was due to study industrial design at uni. But for various reasons I ended up doing a BA in sculpting, perhaps partly because I very much enjoy doing technical things with my hands and love concentrating on materials. My BA end of year show morphed into the series Mirrors.
Yes, Mirrors, I love these funny looking grumpy men. I’m not sure why but I can relate to them. Who are they?
Well toward the end of my BA, I needed to complete studies by presenting cohesive work. Figuration and anything to do with the body was very much shunned upon. So like every self-respecting sculptor I pushed past restrictions, went ahead and made some figures.
We had a couple of one-minded lecturers. Some would look down on the students they didn’t agree with. Sometimes down their noses but sometimes from the second floor window. I found them funny and in fact the only figure I have named in the mirror series is called “lecturer”. He is grumpy I agree (laughs).
But this got me thinking of human characteristics, good and bad and how they appear in people in various degrees. So I guess these figures express this. Like there is also one which wears flippers. Do you know the saying “swimming under the surface”? Well, that’s what it’s about. (That’s a Farsi saying used to describe sneaky people).
Yes I think I saw “Lecturer” and the one with flippers in Sam Café. How do you feel about your work taking on a new life in a public location like this?
On the one hand it’s nice because the work gets seen by a continuous flow of new people. But on the other hand it breaks up the series which is a little sad. It is nice for me to see people relating to the work and posting things on social media about it. I have to admit though that seeing my old work doesnt feel so great. I seem to always notice errors I may not have seen or think up ways of how I would have done things differently. But then again it drives me to make new and better work. All in all I like it.
Your most recent series “Self Destruction” stages elaborate acrobatic figures. Your understanding of proportion muscle and flesh is almost Renaissance. Did you study figuration in university? How did you get so good?
I don’t know if I am any good, I don’t even know if I have really understood what means to sculpt figures. As I mentioned figuration is not really favoured in the Iranian higher education system. So we basically teach ourselves. Through good old trial and error.
My goodness that must take ages and be a really painful process, can you tell me more?
Well we don’t have models here so I use a lot of photographs found on the net, or if I can’t find a picture of a foot in the angle I am looking for I end up photographing my own and eventually I start to fiddle with what I have and continue until I get what I am looking for. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but eventually it does. I admit, it can be a bit of a long process.
I know that often artists send their designs to be made by others. Can you do this?
I am fortunate in that my friends do chip in with help but because of the trial and error system I just told you about I just cannot outsource the actual making of my sculptures. I do what I do also because I love craft, materials and figuring out of how they operate.
What inspires you?
My surroundings, people, society, human behaviour on a micro and macro level and of course the work of other artists.
Well, I am really moved by artwork that has the perfect balance between a rich idea, use of material and attention to practice and process. I was a studio assistant with the amazing Mohammad Hossein Emad. His work falls within this category. More recently I also got to see Babak Golkar’s work who actually works in Canada I believe.
Do you feel good about the future?
Apparently there will be a bright future. Thats’ what people say here in Iran these days. I plan in the meanwhile to focus on learning improving and continuing making work. I hope it goes well.
Mohammad Hossein is represented by Dastan Gallery in Tehran.
Photo credits: Mohammad Hossein Gholamzadeh, Ali Zanjani and Dastan Basement
© Youngpersianartists.com 2016