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Interview with Mehdi Farhadian

Arjun Sahgal

Jan 22, 2019

Iranian artist Mehdi Farhadian’s oeuvre is deeply inter-connected with the complex history of his home country, Iran. It is fascinating to see the drastic composition that the artist creates on the canvas as well as his sensuous use of surreal and bright colors which emphasize and also empower the main narratives that the artist wishes to deliver through his artworks. At his second exhibition at Richard Taittinger Gallery, Parade Square, Farhadian presents his new series of figurative paintings which describes the city’s present landscape as well as historical backgrounds which still affect the contemporary Iran society.


This is a short interview with Mehdi Farhadian gives a glimpse of the artist’s oeuvre.





Arjun Sahgal (AS): What motivated you to become an artist?


Mehdi Farhadian (MF): I have enjoyed art since my childhood; both witnessing it and creating it. And art, especially painting and poetry are instruments that I use to related to my surrounding environment and audience. I believe that painting and poetry have functioned as two sides of a tuning fork, each side continuously causing the other side to vibrate. Later after I entered university and was able to make serious statements as an artist, art became a serious and vital joy.


AS: Where do you get the inspiration to create artworks?


MF: The ideas that have come to me in recent years have mostly been metaphoric and at times symbolic ones from the foundations of my urban environment. Each day I think deeply about the difficult situations my nation faces; the country’s general bewilderment, its search for a way to have a prosperous life in a not so clear future. Then, I use metaphors to express the country’s current situation.



Installation view of Parade Square, 2018 - 2019, Richard Taittinger Gallery, New York. Image courtesy of the gallery.



I found the current exhibition’s illustrative situation when I walked through the promenade of the “Parade Square” in Tehran. The theme of the exhibition at Richard Taittinger Gallery is primarily connected with this place which was built before the revolution as a place where soldiers could practice marching and marksmanship. Celebrations and fireworks were also held here. But today it is a quiet place situated between a huge and beautiful metal gateway entrance and the current Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This area is mostly covered with cobblestones and located in the beating heart of a lively and busy Tehran which seems to have become separated from the rest of the city. Every time I pass by I feel like I am projected into a fantasy world, a parallel universe, into a world that can metaphorically reflect the conditions of my society.


This was the first sparks of my adventure. It became even more complete after researching photographic archives and reference libraries.


AS: What are a few important concepts the world should know about Iranian history?


MF: The history of Iran dates back thousands of years. Persia, which is present day Iran, was one of the great empires in the ancient world before Islam. The Arab invasion brought Islam around 1400 years ago. Then the Mongols invaded Iran 800 years ago and the spreading of the Shi-e starting 400 years ago; in my opinion these are very important. And perhaps in the future they will be cited for their ever-growing presence in the region.


Over the last 100 years, there were two important revolutions and one coup d’état which have affected on Iranian history as well as the fate of contemporary Iran. Those events have also influenced my work a lot. First was the Persian Constitutional Revolution taking place between 1905 and 1911, which led to a democratic constitution and created the Senate. Then in 1953, the United States led a coup with the support of the British, which was against Mossadeq’s Nationalistic ideology. Then finally there was the Islamic Revolution (also known as the Iranian Revolution) in 1979.


AS: What message do you hope your audience takes away from your art?


MF: I generally refer to history and politics in my work not as a historian, but as an artist. And as an artist, I keep a respectful distance from reality in order for both myself and audiences to have an opportunity to creatively imagine and perhaps invent some stories from what exists within my art. My artistic approach toward history is based on poetic feelings and I always try to remain only as a narrator.


Yet regardless of my use of levity, at the exhibition Parade Square, I hope the audience feels my concerns about our uncertain future, ‘the individualistic decision making for society’ and ‘the hopes and fears of our generation’ and in total, the feeling within the framework of colors and shapes of my artworks.



Technical Defect, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 37 x 47¼ in. (94 x 120 cm.) Courtesy of the artist and Richard Taittinger Gallery, New York
The Youth of the Homeland, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 25⅝ x 35⅜ in. (65 x 90 cm.) Courtesy of the artist and Richard Taittinger Gallery, New York



AS: What are you working on currently?


MF: I am currently in the process of researching for a new series that portrays the neighborhood where I live. More specifically, it is about a particular building in my neighborhood. I want to exhibit paintings and archival photographs related to the building. By researching and documenting more about the building, I will be able to make a perfect combination of paintings, drawings and photographs to best showcase the space.


AS: As an artist that portrays modernity in his work, what impact do you think technology will have in the creation and dissemination of artwork going forward?


MF: I believe that artists have been able to use technology in a very excited manner up until now, both in idea and action as well as in creation and presentation.


In fact, technology’s influence will be such that perhaps in as soon as a few years from now the same literature that has been playing a collective and supporting role to the visual arts, will on the horizon give way to a technology which will take on a much more prominent role in the creation of art.


AS: Lastly, if you could invite any artist from history, dead or alive, over for a studio visit, who it would be?


MF: Kerry James Marshal.







Mehdi Farhadian’s Parade Square is currently on view at Richard Taittinger Gallery, New York until January 27, 2019.


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