Reza Derakshani in Dubai

High profile Iranian artist dissects his latest exhibition

Interview
Black sand installation
Black sand installation
The Rose and the Nightingale
The Rose and the Nightingale
Titanic
Titanic
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Jenny Hewett meets high-profile Iranian artist Reza Derakshani to dissect his latest exhibition

Renowned for his challenging techniques, acclaimed Iranian artist Reza Derakshani’s rich canvases are immersed in facets of Iran life and history. At 61 years old, the artist has held a paint brush in his hands for the majority of his life. And so for many art collectors, his works have become the visual tapestry through which Iran’s history and culture have been expressed. Here, Derakshani, who splits his time between Austin, Texas and Dubai, chats about his life as an artist and shares new works, currently on show at Salsali Private Museum.

How has your art developed over the years?
I was addicted to drawing at a very early age, it was as if I was carrying Van Gough’s spirit in me. From people to nature and anything in between, somehow I was good at it quite naturally, just like someone who can sing with no training. Apparently, I did that too, which eventually got me on the stage to perform music professionally. I knew that to achieve anything in life I had to work hard so over the years growing up in a small town in Iran. I did just that. The art schools I attended completed the process in some ways.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an artist?
Growing up, art became inevitable for me and I started doing commissions at the age of 12 while I was a school boy. That process helped me to build up a very strong foundation of professionalism. Art has always been my true passion ever since I was a kid. I could not imagine doing anything but art, so the path was clear and I knew where I was going even though I graduated with a diploma in mathematics. My cultural surrounding had great impact as well. My older brother was an art teacher and the reception and appreciation I received during those years was quite helpful. The art scene in Iran was healthy and intellectual, on the contrary of what’s happening today.

What are some of the symbols often represented in your work?
There are many. The cultural heritage of Iran is like a magic box, every time you open it you find something which could lead you to new inspirations. Sometimes you find terrible things in there as well.

The lowdown

Exhibition: Reza Derakshani until July 9 at Salsali Private Museum (04 380 9600).
Artist: Reza Derakshani
Price range: Not for sale

The Rose and the Nightingale
‘This is black sand and gold paste on canvas. It refers to a series I did on “The Rose and Nightingale” which is a traditional form of art and poetry. There is a very subtle, deep and humanistic feeling behind the imagery and the love story between the Rose and the Nightingale. Some outstanding Iranian poets have used the theme symbolically to say what they were forbidden to say openly and the story goes on and on.’

Black sand installation
‘This is black sand from Dakota on the walls and the floor. It’s an image, but more of an installation. The series is deeply rooted in the ancient history of Iran, the grandiosity and the fact that it’s fading away. My fascination with that era is about the values and intellectual civilisation, which was there back then and missing today more than 20 centuries later.’

Titanic
‘This features mixed material, from roof tar to industrial paint, glitters, oil and cement colour. To me it’s the demolition of a civilisation and history, if I want to make a story. You see, even if I am not into political art, even if it’s a fashion these days, some historical or political stories find their place in art.’

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