Featured Artist: Mehdi Hosseini Ashlaghi

Age: 37

Hometown: KARAJ, IRAN 

Current town: PHILADELPHIA, PA

Job description: PAINTER, ART INSTRUCTOR

BioBorn in 1979, Iran

Upcoming projects:  Working on a new series including 6 large oil paintings with the title of “The Journey.”

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Describe your work.

As far as I remember, it’s been the only way I’ve created my paintings. Just remembering the moments I’ve lived, and letting them pass through my mind’s clearance. That’s exactly the time I can see them clearly shiny, and start drawing them, and depending on what fills me in each period of time, I draw and do paint diverse things. Sometimes societal subjects, and sometimes personal stuff. It’s true that the result is different in appearance, but one thing is always the same, and that’s a kind of pain when something comes apart from me, and only a desire remains. I don’t know about other artists, but for me art always emanates from the fountain of that pain. Each desire leads me to another one, and each pain leads to another pain! Just like gambling, there is nothing at the end, but the greed for another gamble! And suddenly it fills the entire life.

In my last series “Karaj*-Long Shot” and the new series I’m working on, I started using a special technique building a dimensional texturized structure based on my drawings on canvas before painting. Painting itself is a kind of revelation for artists, and for me this revelation almost occurs in my drawings which is a travel of mind in an unknown world. After I build up my drawing with the dimensional texture that I mentioned, the second stage begins which is the painting process, and I’d say that there is another revelation in this phase, because everything may happen which affects, and changes the color atmosphere of my paintings.

What themes and concepts does your work generally revolve around?

I’ve always tried to show the world that surrounds me, and all the moments in which I live and see my environment, compose the main concept of my art. They are almost the personal responses to my feelings of solitude and loneliness after witnessing the societal subjects which have passed through my mind.

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What materials do you work with?

I’ve actually worked with diverse materials, and techniques all over my professional life. Depending on the subjects, I’ve used different mediums like acrylic, oil, and experimental mediums which were like mixed media, but since last year I’m working with oil color on a textured ceramic relief on canvas.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new series including 6 large oil paintings. They are technically following my last series “Karaj-Long Shot,” but are being created in a new environment, and as I said before, it impacts the concept, because what I do as a painter is unquestionably influenced by my lived experiences like where I live, or what I see and so on. So I guess the new series will be totally different.

What’s your art background?

I got my Bachelor, and Master degrees in painting, and illustration from the Art University in Tehran* in 2002, and 2006.
Since that time I had many exhibitions of painting and drawing in group, and two solo shows of my paintings and I participated in many art fairs and festivals that most of them were held in my country, and some of them were international like:
Painting Exhibition in group with Christian Artists, coincident with birthday of Christ, in tribute of Peace & Friendship, Shafagh Cultural Center, Tehran, 2002.
Participating in the 4th International Painting Biennial of the Islamic world, 2007.
Drawing Exhibition with the Asian Contemporary Artists, Mauritius, 2008.
Participating in Cultural Week of Iran in Sudan, 2009.
And I also used to be a teacher of painting, drawing, and illustration in many schools and universities of art between 2002 and 2014.  

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What’s been happening in your life?

I consider life as a journey which is shamelessly short, in the words of an Iranian poet.
As a matter of fact, all I do as an artist in this short journey is just recording some tiny moments which are continuously consecutive. For me each painting is like a single step of that journey. Like a single breath in my life. That’s why I don’t believe in different series of the artworks as a painter. In other words, I’d say that there is never really a new series, because I’ve known myself in terms of a human, or a passenger, before being a painter. And in the same way that each breath is both a new breath and follows the last, each new series is both new and also a continuation of the previous. One day is red, and another day is blue! (According to Picasso’s for instance)
However, I categorize my works like other artists just for better recognition for the audiences and critics.

What’s inspiring you?

Everything around me can be the source of inspiration. People, and their behaviors. Cities, and the societies. Politics, etc. But one thing that almost always makes me inspired is the nature, and its glory.  

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Do you have any exhibits coming up/ past exhibits you’d like to mention?

My last series “Karaj-Long Shot” was exhibited in Tehran, Iran, 2014, but I immediately traveled to the US on that time, and this series is presently in the US, and it’s available for viewing, but I’ve never been exhibited in the US whatsoever, and I’m just looking to make a match for US gallery representation for this series, and hopefully for the new series that I’m working on.

Is any of your work political?
Iran politically had a very tough time during 2009, and 2010 after the Iranian green movement. I was working on a new series of mine at that time, and I was extremely influenced, and overwhelmed by the societal matters as a contemporary artist. That collection with the title of “International Circuses in Karaj” which was exhibited in 2010, maybe is sort of the most political works of mine. Although to be honest I don’t believe that they are political artworks, because I’ve always considered them just as a kind of personal response to my feeling of anger after witnessing the societal, and political subjects in my country.

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What are you trying to communicate with your art?

First of all, art, and painting for me is the best way to communicate with myself. The most private moments that I can remember who I am, where I live or have lived, what I’ve done, or seen. It’s the time to remember what I’ve experimented, and simultaneously I can enjoy improvising with images, and the colors to show how painful, or enjoyable they have been.
Secondly, I can hopefully communicate with people who see my art, and possibly share part of those experiences.    

What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an artist?

Unquestionably communicating with the galleries.

How has the meaning of your work changed over time?

When I move, no matter if it is forward or backward, something changes inside me. Depending on how deep or surface is that change, my art subsequently can be changed.

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What do you dislike about your work?

Generally I like them, but it is very rare that I totally get satisfied of a painting. I can’t mention specifically, but there are almost always some things that makes me dissatisfied.   

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

There are tons of media that I like, but I think they are not my means of expression. Nevertheless I’ve always liked sculpture, and digital painting. I didn’t have the chance to pursue them, but at least at this time I think I’m doing what I’m supposed to.

What is your dream project?

Maybe it’s just a fantasy at this moment, but I really would like to have another job next to painting, which is owning a very large studio, and a big gallery with an international business beside it just for the young talented painters, and sculptors, so that they can gather there, and I would give them all they need for free just for creating their art, and being featured. I wish I could do it sometime.

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Are you involved with any organizations?

I am the member of Iran Institute for Promotion of Visual Arts, and I used to be the member of the Founding Team, Association of Karaj Painters.

Do you collaborate with other artists?

Actually not in the US, because it is just less than a year I’m in this country, and I don’t know many artists, but when I was in Iran I had an open studio with my brother who is a sculptor, and it gave me this opportunity to be connected with a large group of other artists who used to come to our studio to produce their art, and I was often a part of help. Also my brother and I had a group project with one of the other Iranian contemporary sculptors Majid Biglari, with the title of “Tale of Three Cities” at Aaran gallery in 2010, and I had the chance to exhibit my series of “Great International Circuses in Karaj.” I also collaborated with this group of artists working on some urban artworks in Tehran. I established the art group of “Tehran Painters” with a couple of friends of mine in 2003 as the Iranian contemporary artists, and had some thematic exhibitions in group in different galleries in Tehran between 2003 and 2006.

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Favorite artists and why? People in your field whom you most admire:

Cy Twombly, David Hockney, and R.B Kitaj are three western masters whom I always admire. There are also great contemporary artists like Takashi Murakami, Ron Mueck, Euan Uglow, and Jeremy Mann. I like their taste of art, and technique. Also some Iranian masters like Ardeshir Mohassess, and Reza Derakhshani; I really like their works. Honestly there are many!

What are you reading?

Nothing at this moment, but I usually read novels.

Favorite authors, fiction:  

Heinrich Boll, Bohumil Herabal, Christopher Frank, Haruki Murakami, and some Iranian authors like Hushang Golshiri

Favorite authors, nonfiction:

I love Ahmad Shamloo’s poems and translations. He is an Iranian contemporary poet, and linguist.

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What are you listening to these days?

I really listen to music diversely, and it does depend on my mood. From Carlos Santana Guitar, and Mark Knopfler to Massive Attack, Archive, Air, and even the Nikolas Jar’s mixes. Mohsen Namjoo also is an Iranian contemporary musician whom I really like to listen to.

What was the last show (music) you attended?

King Raam (an Iranian punk rock band) who had a concert in Philadelphia couple of months ago.

Your website(s):

You can easily reach my digital portfolio on Behance by this link:

www.behance.net/MehdiAshlaghi
https://ir.linkedin.com/in/mehdi-hosseini-ashlaghi-32130491

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*- Karaj: name of the city which is my hometown next to Tehran.
*- Tehran: the capital of Iran.

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