On the Cover: Exploration of Gravity by Medhi Ghadyanloo
What’s the idea behind Exploration of Gravity?
It’s about the stress we as humans all experience, every second of every minute. This stress is not related to any place in particular: in every country we have the same fears – fear of death, for religious people fear of hell… I use gravity to express this idea because it’s one of the most powerful forces that we can’t fight against.
You have painted more than a hundred walls in Tehran, commissioned by the Organisation for the Beautification of Tehran. Why is street art seen as important by the municipality?
Tehran is full of walls. It’s because of bad urban planning in the city. You sometimes see a ten-storey building sitting next to a two-storey building, leaving a blank wall the height of eight floors. Ten years ago they did a count and found more than 10,000 blank walls in Tehran. Without colour you can’t live in this city, and I wanted to help the people of Tehran breathe for a few seconds, so I started painting. Nowadays, there are many streets which don’t have any good walls left to paint. There are so many paintings that it makes Tehran seem even more populated and more crowded. That’s why I decided not to paint any more in Tehran.
How is your work on canvas different from your street art?
The visual language in both kinds of work is the same, you can see the footprints of surrealism and symbolism. But painting walls in Tehran was a sort of mission to make people happy – the paintings were positive. My personal works are bitter and dark. I like them better than my paintings on walls because when I paint for myself I’m not responsible for anybody. When I paint on walls in the city I always think that I can’t let melancholy win. As for my personal work, when someone decides to come to the gallery they are responsible for what will happen to them.
What are your influences?
The horror and stress I paint in my personal works I think comes from my childhood. I grew up during the war between Iran and Iraq. My father and all of my friends’ fathers were duty soldiers on the frontlines. I think the stress from those years has seeped into my subconscious and shaped my character.
When were you most proud of your work as a painter?
I’ve been on many trips to Europe and neighbouring countries and as a tourist you always take selfies in front of artworks in the countries you visit. A great moment for me was the first time I saw a group of tourists taking a photo in front of one of my paintings in Vanak Square, Tehran. I thought ‘Yes, this is Tehran – the Tehran I want it to be’.
The end of March saw high-level negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme. How important are these talks to people living in Tehran?
It’s so very, very important. I’ve seen many people suffer under the sanctions. Many of my friends have had problems getting medicine. It’s governments who impose sanctions against each other, but it’s the people whose lives are impacted in a negative way. When the outline agreement was reached [in early April] it was like a holiday in Tehran. Car drivers had turned up the volumes of their CD players and young people were dancing in the streets.
Ghadyanloo is represented by the Howard Griffin Gallery, howardgriffingallery.com
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