Are the soldiers metaphors?
Yes, exactly! I also believe that it is an important subject in today’s world. The soldiers I have created are not just Iranian soldiers; they include soldiers from Afghanistan, the US, as well as members of the police force. I wanted to say that a responsibility has been laid on their shoulders by society. It’s not like they want to kill or capture anyone…
These pieces connect you to an ancient tradition in painting: large images of slaves and horses…they are similar to large epic screens. Did you intend your work to be epic?
I have a painting on my website that is 6m x 4m. It is an epic piece. It depicts a number of soldiers trying to live together in the ruins of an exploded house. They are American soldiers in Iraq who are trapped in a situation they have created themselves. The painting is so large that if you stand in front of it you feel like you can step inside it.
It is similar to the work of John Singer Sargent in a way.
That’s right. He was a resident of Boston too, and an artist who had a deep impact on my work. I see myself in him, and everything I learned about painting comes from him.
What was the method for teaching art at your school? What was the artistic approach?
We had to study every historic resource and memorize art history. They (my teachers) believed in art up to Picasso, but not anything that came afterwards. They didn’t believe in “Pop Art” and didn’t mention it at all. It may be a bit different now but in those days they were very faithful to classical art. Nonetheless today I have a great deal of respect for “Pop Art”. But if you had asked my opinion when I was a student, I was strongly against it.
What about Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning?
They were considered mythic figures.
Really? I believe these artists have had an influence on your brushstrokes.
What I am trying to break away from these days is abstract expressionism; a style that leads to the creation of a piece that comes from nature whereas “Pop Art” speaks of modernity. “Pop Art” delivers the viewer a beautiful plate of soup. My teachers did not approve of “Pop Art” at all. Back then abstract expressionists did not consider followers of “Pop Art” true artists, and vice versa. They were constantly in argument with one another, but today their interactions have become friendlier.
Were you influenced by abstract expressionism in school?
Very much so. There is an English term: “painterly”.
Do you intend to stay and work in Tehran?
Definitely! I may visit New York, but I have already gotten what I wanted out of New York.
But New York has a larger art market compared to Tehran.
That’s right. An art market may be important in the buying and selling of art, but they also have a great expectation of artistic quality too. Of course you can find mediocre and superficial works among the art present in New York too. But regardless, I believe it is better if I find a place in the Iranian art scene before going to New York. But if I ever gain fame in New York I would like to receive recognition for my exhibitions in Iran too.