Inspiring Artist Series: Mehrdad Jafari - EMERGEAST
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16 Nov 2020

Inspiring Artist Series: Mehrdad Jafari

Dima Abdul Kader

Iranian artist, Mehrdad Jafari translates the loss of reflection in humans into his provocative illustrations. In his work, anthropomorphic creatures consume themselves and others in eerie yet sensual compositions. Through art, Jafari reimagines concepts, conventions, and existence to find a new definition through analysis and internalization. 

Tell us how you you were drawn towards a creative path

At first, art had a therapeutic effect for me, but after a while and by noticing the reactions it turned into my obsession and career.

What could you say are your inspirations and drives your creative expression into the style we say today?

During the creation process of my works, I have been inspired by poetry. Besides, as I could relate to caricature and illustration, my final pieces turned out to be very poetic, symbolic, including elements like fantasy and fiction along with the satire found in caricature. In fact, during the past recent years I have tried to maintain the poetic quality more than others.

Tell us more about the humanlike creatures that play a central role in your illustrations, who are they?

Most of the characters present in my works are derived from the people somehow related to my personal life; the ones I have encountered since my childhood. Obviously, those who play a more important role appear more often in my works. Indeed, my art is similar to a diary; spontaneous, improvised, and probably shared by people all over the world.   

Unusual figures in my works reflect my impression of the characters they depict, for instance, I have often portrayed my mom very tall with masculine and strong arms carrying an object. This is how I define my mother based on my lifetime experience not how she really is.

Encounter, Mixed media on paper, 50x35cm

Your illustrations serve as your personal diary, a visual journal of sorts - how do you choose which works to be shown and which ones to keep private?

It is not to censor myself or to hide my private incidents. There is no choice. Perhaps it is because of my personal concerns. I prefer to keep it to myself, in a quite selfish manner! I do not have any secrets to keep though, you can track almost the whole 36 years of my life uncensored. I try to convey my feelings and thoughts to the audience through painting and drawing.

Which artwork is your favourite? Tell us why.

My method and approach towards art and the unpredictable nature of my creative process, makes it very difficult to pick one of my works as the best. Because whenever I start working I have a feeling that a better work is about to be created.

You had a solo exhibition in Holland in 2018, how did it feel to show your work to a new / Western audience? 

Undoubtedly, it is very interesting to hear other people from different geographical locations with distinct cultural backgrounds commenting on my works, however, I believe the fact that the audience relate to my works easily is that I try to depict timeless and placeless images.

Through your works you convey the loss of human reflection and unity, so relevant in the world we are living in. Has the Covid era impacted or reinforced this urgent message in your works?

I have always been obsessed with this issue, therefore, in most of my compositions little interaction is found among figures; they are very isolated people. Perhaps this is how the world is changing and I am a part of it, so subconsciously this change is reflected in my works. During the coronavirus pandemic I have continued creating such works, to be specific, there is a work titled “A Lonely Woman in Quarantine” which deals the same subject.

Liberation, Mixed media on paper, 50x35cm

Want to ask about the specific piece on the dinner table pouring the glass of wine, what significance does this ritual have in Iranian culture?

In Iran, like many other countries in the world lots of things are happening, but due to restrictions the government prefers to deny them as if they never existed. I have always dared to represent such denied issues, since the way I view, for instance night parties, is very different from those who live in a more unrestricted country with a more liberal government. I mention such issues in the middle of intimidation and fear of talking about these realties; intentionally insisting on subjects like love, sex, and other taboos. I portray the ugly face of denial.

Two Singers, Mixed media on paper, 80x60cm

You work with collages work as well - how do you express yourself through the mediums you use?

My collages are very interesting for myself given that they are the final products of my previous works destruction. In fact, I destroy my older works and create something new out of them. This reconstruction is a very eye-opening experience. The collages represent my various work periods in one frame.

The use of satire penetrates your canvases as you humorously depict classic Iranian social constructs. How do Iranians react to these works vs non Iranians? 

This is the case in some of my earlier works, I have been meaning to give the audience a broader perspective to look at, think about and explore my works. I am trying to distance from former redundancies and give the audience room for imagination. The sense of humor found in my art is due to the fact that the same thing is present in my daily life and I enjoy irony and humor; these are part of my character.

What themes and inspirations are present in your latest body of work?

Such issues change based on different phases of my life and my inspiration comes from the incidents around me and I try to observe them closely.

Greetings, Mixed media on paper, 80x60cm

What do you wish people took away after seeing your works?

This is a very difficult question to answer, I suppose that every audience based on their taste and perception of a work, either relates to or moves away from it and different people have different interpretations. What really matters is to create works honestly and the rest is out of the artist’s control.

Flash Time With Mehrdad!
  1. What's your favourite object in your studio?
  2. Which poet or poem inspires you the most?
  3. What's one thing you're looking forward to in your art career?
For Mehrdad Jafari's full profile, click here!