Persian Fotopages

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I was born on the ninth of September, 1938, in Rasht, a city in the north of Iran located on the Caspian Sea. My mother was a poetess and my father a judge. I am one of the few Iranians who do not write poetry. I began drawing when I was a child. My first work came about after I went to the well-known film serial, “Enemies of the Nazis” when I returned home and was questioned about the film, I couldn’t explain, so I drew what I had seen. After high school, I attended the law faculty of the University of Tehran and received my degree in law and political science. I use this background only to enhance my biography I didn’t pay attention to what my professors said, but rather to their expressions and gestures. After the University, I worked in the library of a Ministry for a year. I read all the books there, and then resigned. After that I devoted myself to drawing. At this time, Ahmad Shamlu, distinguished poet of the Iranian “New Wave” poetry was the editor of a weekly magazine. He published an issue featuring my work which caused severe reaction. The magazine was discontinued. Awhile after, I continued my work at Kayhan newspaper, a mass circulation daily. Fortunately, Dr. Mehdi Semsar, the editor of the newspaper, and a highly respected journalist, is a person very open and receptive to new ideas. He printed my work regularly even though it was not exactly suitable for a newspaper. Because he stood behind me, people became accustomed to my style of drawing. I have had several one-man exhibitions in Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran. Nine books of my works have been printed and two books about myself and my work have been written. It is interesting to note that the first book of my collected works took six years to be accepted for publication while the second book was published within one month of the first. In the following year, I was able to have seven books of my works accepted for publication by different private publishing companies. The reason for the initial difficulty stemmed from the publisher’s fears that this type of book, that had never before been printed in Iran, would have no sales. When this proved untrue, various publishers printed my work with profitable sales. I love Iranian miniatures, Iranian popular paintings, old Persian engravings and photographs. Many of my drawings, some of which appear here, were taken and assembled from old drawings and photographs. Without doubt, pictures and drawings form the foundation of my work: newspaper photos, album pictures, performer’s photos, sports pictures, old painted signs from restaurant and coffee houses and romantic, sentimental magazine pictures. Most of the characters in my work are in the act of running away. Until several years ago, I could not draw a running figure. All of the people I drew were stationary. This bothered my greatly. I thought if only I could draw a running figure, I would have everything solved. This difficulty was finally overcome. I think this running figure may be myself, running for that which I desire. I sense that unintentionally the actions, clothes, even the shoes of the personages I draw are from myself. If I gain weight, the characters I draw are heavier. When I get thin, they are slimmer. I have taken two trips outside Iran. The first time was last year when I went to Pans for six months at the invitation of the magazine “Jeune Afrique” Parisiennes are very conservative and think in traditional ways. They have a superiority complex and imagine that they could do anything if they oily had the means. Paris influenced me in that I discovered color. Color in Paris is incredible. One can see at least twenty different colors in a Parisienne’s dress. From that time I began to use color which had never before appeared in my work. I mostly use colored pencils. However, an Iranian painter who has lived a number of years in New York urged me to use more expensive materials for color because colored pencils are for children. He is the father of twins. The second time I went abroad was to New York! That was several months ago and I stayed for six months. New York has an active, alive environment that I greatly enjoy. When the streets are quiet at night, one imagines that the New Yorkers are still rushing and hurrying even in their skyscraper apartment. When I first arrived) in New York, I saw the city was full of Draculas for Charlie Chaplins. In New York, I feel I am part of a huge comic strip. This city’s influence brought to my work shapes, lines and geometric figures that appeared in my work for the first time.
I have illustrated a number of articles for the Op Ed page of the New York Times. This association began two years ago when Jean Claude Suares was Art Director of that page.
When an Art Director is truly perceptive and unique it is interesting how he can find talent in a country quite far from America. When I got to America, I understood the value and importance of the drawings printed on the Op Ed page. Unfortunately most American publications prefer to print easy to comprehend, run-of-the-mill drawings. They are opposed to printing illustrations other than this type. The illustrations I saw in America are all of one sort, style. There seem to be trends, periods, when a particular painter is copied by graphic artists. I think the fault “/ lies with the art directors of the publications rather than with the public or the artists. Because their understanding is limited, they imagine they represent a public which is the same. Such is not the case, but the art director is the one who commissions work.
As an artist, I respect and admire Steinberg because with his work he gave caricature artistic value. I like the humor in the work of Bosch, Bruegel, (Goya, Daumier, Ensor, Picasso, Lindner and Chagall.
Most of my work concerns themes that Third World countries face, such as famine, domination and subjection, overpopulation, Injustice, military build-up.
In my country, people expect much from an artist. Throughout history, an has reflected their complexes, pains, and hopes. Poetry has been made into a religion and a barrier that protects. They have clawed and cursed with the Persian miniature. With language, architecture and the other arts they have got revenge, attacked, taken refuge, achieved catharsis and affirmed their existence. If, in such an environment, one looks upon his arts a pastime, he loses not only his people, but himself.
Ardeshir Mohaesess, 1976