Source: gallerymamak.com, Tehran
The Deep, painting-acrylic, 2008
Reza Nosratti was born in Sanandaj, Iranian Kurdistan, in 1980. He received a BA from Shahed Art University of Tehran in 2006 and an MA from the same university in 2008. His works have been exhibited in over thirty solo and group exhibitions in Tehran and Sanandaj. He has won the outstanding Young Painter's Award of Western Iran four times in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2005 and in 2003 he was awarded the second prize of the Biennial of Young Iranian Painters. The artist is best known for his exploration of the unrevealed through color. Nosratti gives rein to the magic of the traditional colors of Kurdish clothes and the swirls of the reeling Kurdish dance and song directly onto the walls of the gallery creating a synthesis of color and form. His spontaneous forms wed the brilliance of color to transport the viewer to a realm that is simultaneously primitive and yet very much a part of the twenty first century. In his recent paintings he has embellished his works with ever more probing layers waiting to be explored by the artist and viewer alike. Reza Nosratti currently lives and works in Tehran where he paints and exhibits his work regularly.
Pink, painting-oil, 2006
A Conversation With Iranian Artist Reza Nosratti
Q: Tell us a little about your background, Mr. Nosratti.
Nosratti: I was born in Sanandaj, Iranian Kurdistan, in 1980. I spent the first twenty years of my life there and actually started painting before I went to school. At the age of ten I went to art classes so I actually started my academic art training in Sanandaj. Teachers there started with basic sketching. I sketched and painted until I was twenty years old when I came to Tehran.
Q: How many siblings do you have?
Nosratti: I was the first child, I have three brothers and two sisters.
Q: What did your parents do?
Nosratti: My mother is
uneducated and a housewife and my father works in the bazaar in Sanandaj. In
spite of this they both, particularly my father, supported me very much in my
career. Actually let me tell you a story here. When I was really small, around
four, I had a notebook I used to draw in. I used to put this by my bed when I
went to sleep each night. My parents used to say that an angel would come in and
draw in it for me while I was asleep. I used to love this and I'd place the
notebook under my pillow to make sure the angel didn't forget to draw in it.
The first thing I did every morning when I woke up was to check what she had drawn for me the previous night. And sure enough, there was a new drawing in it each morning.
One winter night, it was snowing heavily. I went to open the window to make sure that she could get in and draw for me that night too. My parents kept telling me to shut the window. It was really cold and we only had one room to live in. They told me that the angel could get in even through closed windows. I was worried that she might leave if the windows were shut.
It was during this wrangling with me opening the window and my parents trying to shut it that they were forced to actually tell me the truth. They told me that each night while I was asleep my father would draw me a picture in my notebook. I was devastated. The fact that there was no angel and that they'd lied to me was overwhelming for me. I cried myself to sleep that night.
But they continued to support me. When I was ten years old they sent me to art classes. By the time I got to university I was very familiar with various techniques and styles.
Q: Having come from a large family, didn't your parents insist on your having some kind of income?
Nosratti: I used to work and get commissions even then.
Q: Sanandaj is a small traditional city. Were they at all worried about how you would earn a living that could support you and your future family.
Nosratti: No, it was actually quite interesting for them that I had decided to become a painter. Although they were illiterate they were proud of having an artist in their midst. My father used to boast of this a lot.
Q: What brought you to Tehran?
Nosratti: I was accepted at the university here. I was set on studying art and only in Tehran and that is precisely what I did.
Q: Why Tehran?
Nosratti: It has a more open atmosphere to work in. Other cities in Iran aren't really that different from Sanandaj. Everything is centered in Tehran-the best exhibitions, museums, universities...
Q: Can you compare the atmosphere in Tehran with that of Sanandaj?
Nosratti: Can you compare the atmosphere in Tehran with the one in New York? Of course you can't. There is so much happening in New York: the gatherings, the number of artists, the setting, the events... Right now we have about eighty to ninety galleries in Tehran. Even if sixty of them are useless we still have at least twenty that get things done. In the other cities you're lucky if you can get one good exhibition a year.
Q: I have seen your development over the past four years and you've gone from figurative painting to abstract. How do you explain this development?
Nosratti: This is only natural.
I used to be very involved with figurative painting. It was important for me to
get all the proportions right. Gradually this need was replaced by a desire to
change the spaces and move from externalization to internalization. But you're
right the past years have brought me to the realization of how important a
purely imaginative space is.
I'm no longer interested in the outer meaning of things. I don't care if something can represent a swarm of fish in the sea or not. My more recent works have a kind of mist over them. I mean I've not even used my brush. It's just paint poured onto the canvas. As for being abstract, it's more constant than that.
Q: What is it that you are trying to portray?
Nosratti: An abstract piece deals with abstract meanings. There have been many painters who've sought to portray abstract meaning through realism or figurative techniques. But take the concept of 'freshness'. I'm concerned with drawing 'freshness' itself and not with drawing a fresh face or a fresh flower. I want to draw 'freshness'. It's a highly abstract concept but that's what I want. I want to draw 'happiness', 'sorrow'... Now think of 'pain'. Millions of people have drawn a person in pain in various forms. But I am only interested in drawing 'pain' isolated from anything else.
Q: What role does color play here?
Nosratti: Abstract work loses
narrative. Meaning remains but storyline is gone. There is no narrative left, no
story line. In my earlier works I might have been more concerned with form but
now, as you can see, even form has gone. Eighty to ninety percent of the work is
pure color. So, 'pink' itself or 'orange' itself becomes my concern. I don't
need to lend myself to any special form here. There's no need for any complex
set up. So color alone rises to take over the canvas. Lines and forms fall away
and leave me with a space of unadulterated color.
If you look at my latest works you'll see that up to 50-60 layers of paint have come on top of each other to give me the ambience I am looking for. Layers and layers of pinks and reds have spread over each other to give me that mysterious mist that I'm looking for. I have created a gaseous atmosphere across which this miasma spreads itself.
Flight, painting-acrylic, 2008
Q: And is this 'mist' a symbol of anything?
Nosratti: No. I am not dealing
with symbolism here. That would once again take me outside the painting proper.
It's like showing something. See this wall here? Imagine there's a really beautiful color on this wall. But the passage of time has covered the wall with grime. Then someone comes along who understands that if you remove the grime there's something really beautiful, something fresh underneath it. It's that discovery that I'm looking for.
I want to take off the layers and reveal what's hidden underneath. There's always something there. It might not be recognizable at first glance but it exists. I need to scratch my way through the grime to get to it. No single one of the layers means anything in and of itself, it's not until you can put them all next to each other that you get the real meaning.
Q: Your paintings seem to be getting larger and larger. How important is size in your work?
Nosratti: I wish I had the possibility to draw paintings that are two hundred by two hundred centimeters. The piece itself tells me its true size. It's like locking someone up in a small room: he needs to get out.
Q: Is your work decorative?
Nosratti: Because abstract works
don't have a storyline they lend themselves to being decorative. This is true of
all abstract works. The fact that they're two dimensional and flat automatically
makes the works more decorative. The important thing is for the work not to
become solely decorative.
For example, if you look at old Iranian tile work or the vitrailles you see in Iran, these are all purely decorative. But then if you look at the works of people like Jackson Pollock or Kandinsky you can see that these painters have created 'unadulterated' art and yet the artwork is replete with decorative elements.
Q: You have come a long ways from the labyrinths of Sanandaj. As you have progressed your worked has risen with you. What do you think could help you soar to new heights at this point in time?
Nosratti: I would like to be able to travel abroad. Not necessarily to live there but just to see things, to experience, to travel around for a few years. I have always wanted to see so many of the masterpieces from close up as opposed to just having books for reference. Traveling would open new spaces for me to experience in, new worlds for me to explore and expand in.
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