Inspiring Artist Series: Mehrdad Jafari - EMERGEAST
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19 Jan 2022

Inspiring Artist Series: Mehrdad Jafari

Dima Abdul Kader

Mehrdad Jafari signature style centers around the loss of reflection in humans into his provocative illustrations. Throughout the years, Mehrdad's style has developed significantly as he explores different mediums and subject matters. Drawing on his original sketch illustrations of anthropomorphic figures, Mehrdad's creative practice now delves deeper into a more extensive visual language through vibrant colour and materials. We sat down with Mehrdad to hear more about his new series 'Faded Festival' and how he reimagines concepts, conventions and existence through art.

Tell us, how were you drawn towards a creative path?

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

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

During the creation process of my works, I have been inspired by poetry. The caricatures in my works turned out to be very poetic, symbolic, including elements like fantasy and fiction along with satire. In fact, during the past recent years I have tried to maintain the poetic quality more than before.

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. 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.

Untitled, Mixed media on paper, 20x15cm

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. I do not have any secrets to keep though, you can track almost the whole 37 years of my life uncensored. I try to convey my feelings and thoughts to the audience through painting and drawing.

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

The series consists of discarded multicoloured paper garlands of parties and festivals of the revolution. These celebratory pieces of colour and joy were confined in a basement of a home for thirty years. Dusty, desolate, faded, and ancient, they whisper in my ear, “we never had a true celebration on this land.”

Untitled, Mixed media on paper, 30x20cm

You had a solo exhibition in Holland in 2018, how did it feel to show your work to a new and 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.

Faded Festival series, Mixed media on paper, 40x30cm

There is a specific piece showcasing the people gathered around a 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.

Untitled, Mixed media on paper, 35x50cm

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.

Untitled, Mixed media on paper, 50x35cm

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.

For Mehrdad Jafari's full profile, click here!