Ámadāi (2015)

Politics, emotions, feminism, womanliness, strength and courage, meet and fight within her fantasies and her talent. Interview with SORAYA SHARGHI, Iranian artist living in San Francisco.

V :How would you describe your art making?
S: An important theme for my work over the years has continued to revolve around drawing myself as small, cartoonlike characters, reminiscent of my childhood. I create aggressive, “cute” characters that explore the tension I feel between religion and my understanding of the stereotypes associated with Muslim culture. In my artwork, I am playing with these two realities through humor. Exploring concept such as “Otherness”.

V: I find your work quite impressive, rich in expressiveness, the use of color you adopt is shocking, the subjects evoke strong emotional conditions and I see plenty of fine symbols, and dreamlike images tossed by your brush on canvasses….I see some of Jonas Wood, with more fantasticism, or Tom Wesselmann and some vague references to pop American art from the ’70. I see your characters like tenants of Kara Walker’s canvasses, like her cut-paper silhouettes, or the colors and texture from Wangechi Mutu……Do you often get inspired by other paintings?
S: Of course! Movies, books and other artists inspire me to make art. I love Kara Walker. I appreciate Wangechi Mutu. I learn from the beauty and ideas of others, and act for myself with open eyes. Among my favourite artists are Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Laylah Ali, Mathew Barney, Katharina Grosse and Mike Kelley. Also, Barry McGee, Cindy Sherman, Shahzia Sikandar, James Turrell, Takashi Murakami and Paul McCarthy………!!!

V: Do you think that being an artist always implies a controversial and difficult process? Or is that a linear and spontaneous process?
S: It is always difficult, It has never been a linear process. You need to take risks and deal with whatever comes from those risks. Art has a huge power to affect people, the culture, and the world. It brings a lot of responsibility for the artist. As far as controversy, I think it depends on the definition of the art. So the controversy is the personal struggle to stay with their passion, despite pressure from family or society. The act of making art is everything. It is the most awesome challenge and rewards are great. Art itself is not always a struggle; the situation of life is struggle. You struggle to make your work done. As a young artist the struggle of needing money to transfer my ideas into art is the hardest part and it takes a lot of time. So it is not easy to be an artist.

V: How do you face the political situation of your country, Iran, as painter, sculptor, artist, woman…. as a communicator?
S: I moved out from my country one year and a half ago, I was 25. Concepts such as “Postcolonial Gaze” and “Otherness,” as Edward Said mentions in his book ORIENTALISM, have been subjects of my studies, and being deepened, changed, challenged, called me into play. Also, things are happening rapidly right now related to the nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers. In my country people got fear of war. The terrible perspective of a Third World War is lurking. We want Peace. I can’t stay in silence and shout my mouth. I talk through my art and making my art, as Iranian, as woman, as artist. I hope one day to see Peace in the World.

V: It seems you are in love with philosophy, and politics…. what kind of reading do you prioritize?
S: I like novelists such Kafka, philosophers like Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Heidegger, Lacan, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Edward Said, and Spivak. Right now, I am reading Joseph Campbell’s THE POWER OF MYTH: HEROES OF A THOUSAND FACES.

V: How does it feel to be in San Francisco?
S: It is great to have the chance to create my art and see other diverse people’s interpretations about my work in this very different socio-cultural context. Maybe this is my strength, in fact, I think sometimes those limitations brings more creativity now. It was really challenging to get here. But I am so glad to just be here, taking it all in.

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