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A Dialog Between Mahshid Modares and Farzin Hedayatzadeh, An Iranian Leading and Award-wining Sculptor


Translator and Interviewer: Mahshid Modares

Farzin Hedayatzadeh (born 1970) studied Sculpting at Tehran University (graduated in 1999), and he served as the director of the first Sculpting Competition and Expo in Tehran in 2007. He participated in several group exhibitions such as the Sixth Sculpture Biennale in Tehran (2011), in which Tehran City Beautification Organization honored him with the first prize; The exhibition of Three Generations of Sculpting in Iran (2009); Auran Gallery Exhibition in the Memory of Neda Agha Soltan (2009); and, the Fifth Sculpture Biennale in Tehran (2007). He was chosen as the finalist in the Fifth Sculpture Biennale. Farzin Hedayatzadeh designed the Statue for the Ten Years of Sacred Defense, Ahvaz (2009), and two sculptures for the Memory of Hafez and Sadraa Shirazi, Shiraz (2008). His work, The House of Two Friends, won the first prize in Tehran Visual Arts Festival (2008). Also, he was the primary sculptor for statues placed in Millad Skyscraper, Tehran (2006). Farzin’s elegant works can be found in several areas in Tehran: Three statues titled Hossein Gholi (2011), Holy Birds in the memory of missed Iranian soldiers of Iran-Iraq war (2009), Father and Two Sons in the memory of Dastvaareh Martyrs (2007), and The Sketch (2003). The last mentioned sculpture is missing now.

In the following interview Farzin Hedayatzadeh emphasizes on some of the difficulties that Iranian artists face in Iran.

Mahshid Modares: How do you evaluate the visual arts in Iran?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: In my opinion visual arts in Iran are in despair. And, I don’t judge this abject situation based on my own personal taste. Contemporary art in Iran is funded on a rudimentary basis and a misunderstanding of modernity. During the last century, we are even more attracted to the West for two reasons: one- variety and limitlessness of modernity in the West, specifically in the arts; second- Iran’s backwardness in most aspects. With no doubt, Iranians’ attraction to the western modernity has changed the quality of our artists’ attitudes and thinkers’ beliefs. Allow me to give you one example: as far as I know, in the past there was no authentic educational system in Iran except for the religious schools in which clergies created their own style of pedagogy. Let’s not to forget that some respected thinkers were fostered in those schools. During the Qajar and Pahlavi periods attraction to modernity increased among the ruling class even more than the previous period. The prominent problem was that the government did not change the foundation of the Iranian society based on a deep understanding of the long-term vicissitude of the western societies. On the contrary, they focused on changing the Iranian traditions by following the West’s values without understanding their implications on the Iranian society. Educational system, too, was changed in a fairly short time; and, traditional schooling was considered backward. Most students who were sent to the West to study sciences brought back a void copy of the western educational structure without apprehending the deep roots of it. In their opinion these changes in Iran were harmonized with the western society. The result is the lack of a creative thinking class in today’s Iran. In this manner, we are like students who have memorized something in their short-term memory. Of course, there are exceptions. Leading figures, like sparks, have flourished but their effort dies out before making a fundamental modification. In general we are witnessing a social dissolution in all aspects of our lives and this reality is causing unfruitfulness and inertness in social and cultural bases including the arts. Today, rekindling this awareness is much harder for us. Lack of knowledge about the fundamentals of our own society as well as misunderstanding modernity has caused confusion for the Iranian society. Although Modernity itself is based on rationality, logic and constancy, for Iranian arts it is unsavory and tardy. Modernity in Iran negates itself.

For instance, an artist may criticize both the injustice and inequality in the society without a deep understanding of their root cause. Therefore, his/her artworks never reach a higher level of maturity.

In my opinion this problem has even affected the economy and patronage of the arts. The patrons do not feel secure enough to invest in the arts since the arts in Iran lack both practical and theoretical basis. In fact, modern art should be accompanied with peace of mind and sense of security for patrons. Commissioners and patrons cannot support people who do not understand the reasons for backwardness and their work is based on pretense and shallow demeanor.

Title: The Spring of Life (For Watching)
Farzin Hedayatzadeh
Material: Mixed Materials
Year: 2010
Dimension: Photographed from Maquette 1/20

Mahshid Modares: You mentioned Qajar and Pahlavi periods. What are the significant transformations after these two periods?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: Around the early 20th century, sculpting and art in general were defined differently. Eventually everything became more specialized and the fields of art were divided to even more specific branches. Another vital change was that more individuals became interested in art and in experimenting with new media and subject matter. Before that time, a limited number of people chose being an artist and most art students just learned some techniques from an art teacher or a master. In my opinion, in modern era, one cannot be called an artist until she/he grasps the essence of art and the meaning of art genuinely, even if she/he masters the techniques.

Also, the relationship between the artist and the society is changed. Is it crucial that others accept us as artists? I believe not. Someone who decides to practice art does not prefer to do something else. It is important that artists understand their position in the society, which is on top of the pyramid, if we accept this classic notion. Artists should not limit themselves to the restrictions that are created by others.

Mahshid Modares: In your opinion, are these changes discouraging or uplifting?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: This is the question we always ask ourselves, and, there is no right or wrong answer to this inquiry. All that matters is that we attempt to comprehend the role of the artists in the society and what they accomplish. This happens only if we appreciate their creativity.

Mahshid Modares: What is the role of the artists in the Iranian society?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: In the last century, artists became more sensitive to the social issues. They are more sympathetic, wise and responsive to what they see around them without engaging themselves directly with politics. How did this happen? This is the result of combining contemplation and imagination. I strongly believe that by practicing art such as sculpting we are able to absorb this sensitivity and apprehending.

Title: For Watching
Farzin Hedayatzadeh
Material: Sheet Iron
Year: 2011
Dimension: 118x59x78.7 inches (300x150x200 cm)

Mahshid Modares: Give us one example for one thing that Iranian artists are trying to change in Iran.

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: We are trying to separate ourselves from the current common worthless values that for example we see in a TV show called “Ghahve-ye Talkh” [The Bitter Coffee] that hooks people in front of the TV. Works like this TV show are lacking rationality. Today, there are artists who have no academic training, but they are challenging those values as well.

Mahshid Modares: What about art organizations? What is their role in improving art and effectively representing some of the best Iranian artists in Iran and abroad?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: The success of an art organization depends on the management. Art organizations’ connection with other art organizations and galleries in Iran, around the world and via Internet should facilitate the introduction and sighting of the best Iranian artists. The goal should be bringing awareness, leading art to flourish, introducing and supporting artists.


Mahshid Modares: Do you have any suggestions for young artists, sculptors, graphic designers, photographers and people who choose art as their major?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: The happenings in Iran make it difficult to predict the future of art and it is already affecting the quality, the demand and requirements of the artworks. For instance, around 1385 (2006) we experienced a growth in the patronage of the visual arts that lasted for about 5 years. The patrons, art commissioners and art supporters establish their own evaluation of art. We have to accept this measurement, since there is no rule for assessment for the arts. In Iran, we lack a genuine criterion for the arts, too. Therefore, we have no choice but following the commissioners and the changes in the economy. The economy is tangible and it helps us to understand the situation better. That is why I raised this issue. After those five golden years, Iranian art was no longer proposed in an international level. What happened? Was the art management baseless?

Alireza Sami Azar mentioned the crises four years ago when the magazine The Economy of Art was published for the first time in Iran. This is not the case in a stable country; Artists don’t follow the commissioners’ will. In the contrary, in Iran, artists are not able to have an effective enforcement in the art economy. Everything is controlled by a specific group whom draws a line around us and force artists to stay in this circle and work within these limitations. The bad economy became a tool to control the scene even more. Having this in mind, what can I say to the next generation of artists while we don’t even know what is going to happen to our generation?!

Mahshid Modares: But, artists like you exist. Does this not count?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: Maybe! We are known by accident, and, we are not allowed to be the decision makers. What we do is not accepted. People who control the economy of art commission specific artworks from specific artists and it is always limited to this group.

Title: Born on a Dark Spear (From Scarecrows Collection)
Farzin Hedayatzadeh
Material: Mixed Materials
Year: 2012
Dimension: 78.7x23.6x31.4 inches (200x60x80 cm)

Mahshid Modares: Are you pessimistic about the future of art in Iran?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: No! There will be a time that one would choose between either being a regular artist or one who creates authentic artworks. And, there will be a time that governments spend the money on supporting art and culture instead of weapons manufacturing and building garrisons. The real munitions will be enhancing the quality of people’s life.

Mahshid Modares: This is more like an unattainable dream. What do you mean by separating regular artists and the ones who create above-board artworks?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: Artists have desire for material possessions too. The only way to earn welfare is following the everyday economy and the commissioners’ taste. It is the artists’ choice to either follow their heart or what is dictated by the commissioners. Some artists choose to be a follower, even the known artist sometimes fall into this trap. This changes the artists to a factory of artwork producers and eventually distances them from genuine creativity.

Mahshid Modares: I agree. This is already happening to some known artists. Money is tempting.

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: Yes, economy can morph a creative force to a machine and to someone who repeats the past. If we reach the point of understanding the essential role of the artists we then accept that peace and development could be possible by art. But, first, the artists’ worries should be addressed and resolved. Artists should not have to waste their time and energy with dealing with people who control the economy.

Mahshid Modares: This is a beautiful dream, but I doubt that it will ever happen. Even if artists reach that peak, there is no guarantee that they will use their power in the way you describe.

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: It is not inconceivable. Artists always create what looks impossible to others. Right? If people who have power change their way, it can happen. In this case the responsibility of art and cultural organizations is to bring awareness.

Mahshid Modares: Bring awareness to people and the governments?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: No, bring awareness to artists; encourage them to increase their expectations and prospects. Art organizations have great potential to connect artists with people around the world. With wise management, an art organization is able to make changes that seem impossible and lead artists to understand that impossible can become a reality. And, this happens when artists dare to say NO; NO to the society, governments, money, or nugatory actions. Responsible artists do not accept everything they are asked for. Yes, life would be hard for them, but they can handle it with wisdom, knowledge, and believing in their instinct.

Mahshid Modares: You have unique and motivating opinions and ideas. What about yourself? Do you follow your own thoughts?

Farzin Hedayatzadeh: From the day I realized my passion for art, I have been making an effort to give life to my dreams. I have always had artistic concerns as well as a sort of solicitude for the world. The reality in today’s world does not satisfy me. These thoughts appear in my artworks. I don’t like the repetitive outdated reality. I make my dreams a reality.

Mahshid Modares: Thank you for your time!


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