Q & A with Arshin Aghashteh
– My first question is what prompted you to change major after completing your psychology studies?
I think my answer would be the same cliché response offered by all artists who have shifted the course of their studies and entered the realm of art. It is the same peculiar force residing inside you, and no matter what you do, you will never be pleased unless you let yourself in to this strange world. As you proceed in this path, you gain a growing appreciation of your belonging to the world of art, which anxiously awaits your appearance sooner or later. Of course, I do not mean that you are born as an artist! When you have this epiphany, it is just the beginning and as you move forward, you begin to ascertain the complexities and predicaments lying ahead of you.
– As far as I know, the previous collection of your work centered on the world of children, but all of a sudden, you take up a different subject and followed up a radically different path. What was the reason for this shift?
For a long time, I felt I was in a rut and repeated the same subject over and over again, which was quite frustrating to me. One day, I met a friend of mine, whom I knew for a few years, but I recently had found that we had spent our childhood in the same neighborhood and at the same school and even shared the same school bus driver. That was interesting. You always contemplate on some scenes and events of your life and think that they belong solely to you, but then you see that they are shared with others as well. One of such scenes was associated with a house in our neighborhood, which was hit by a missile, and each of us looked at it from a certain angel in that street. This was the spark that initiated a chain of explosions.
– You mean, as someone familiar with the experiences of war, you have been inspired by these atmospheres?
Obviously, it has had a tremendous influence, but I had limited experience in this regard, which is unparalleled to those of people living in the southern Iran. Another reason, however, may be the same excuses for the colorful explosions ubiquitous in the world of children. For me, these two worlds share many features.
– Why do you use architectural plans not buildings in your explosions?
Many of the elements in an artist’s work are developed unconsciously without any solid reasons, but later you find out that they are there for a reason and they make a lot of sense. Because of the profession of my father, I used to fool around with architectural figures and blueprints of buildings. By no means could I make head or tail of those figures, but they were intriguing for me and when my father told me that, for example, a square represented a bedroom, it was all absurd to me. Of all those figures, the one that still lingers in my mind was the blueprint of the house we lived in after moving to Tehran, which was also designed by my father. He put the initials of his first name and family name on the front of the building and the top of doors, as you can see them in some of the world in this collection.
– So, your works are significant both in terms of content and form. But why did you pick the name “blossoms” for this collection?
I think the coming out of a blossom is very similar to an explosion. Yet, it seems as though this motion is captured in a blossom with a slow-motion pace at a smaller scale.
– Is the title not a bit ironic? An irony and criticism of the war?
There is always a trace of formalism in my work. I came up with this name quite accidentally when I was talking with my husband. It was spring back then, but this substantive contradiction between an explosion and a blossom could be attributed to a psychological mechanism of denial. Perhaps this is rooted in an Iranian spirit that has always been with us throughout history and assisted us in our attempt for survival. Of course, I do not intend to go into the merits and demerits of such attitude.
– Does it mean that you try to distract your audience? It is a point seen in your poetry. There is a dialogue between two people, with one anxiously asking some questions but the other denying his questions, or perhaps drawing his attention to the beauty of blossoms; the omnipresent explosions and blossoms.
Maybe. Anyway, we have to be able to believe in any unpleasant and repetitive events that occur at any moment and at infinite points across the globe, or maybe similar to pop artists who portray the recurrent images and advertisements of their period irrespective of any judgment, we also have to accept these images as natural scenes present in the spirit of our time.
– My other question is concerned with the lack of human presence in your work. Why humans are absent in this collection?
Several conscious and unconscious reasons can be cited for this, but maybe it is due to the elimination of actions in these works. The presence of man and events made the scene cinematic and chronological, which I was cautious to avoid. Besides, I strived to do away with the strong presence of figures in my current work, which came as an unexpected surprise to many fans of my previous. Nonetheless, I believe one can still feel the substantive presence of man in these works.