Two Iranian artists talk about studying art in India despite the rich heritage of art in their home country.
India might not be the cultural and knowledge centre that it was in the Ancient Age, but it still attracts those who want to learn from its treasure trove of tradition and culture.
A chat with Majid Barouei and Armin Azarnewshe, two of the seven Iranian artists who recently displayed their artwork at the Karanataka Chitrakala Parishath, reveals how India still continues to inspire.
Armin is a student of Applied Arts at Bangalore’s Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath while Majid, who passed out of college, holds a master’s degree in sculpture and is now working on a Ph.D in archaeology and sculpture from the Mysore University. Both have previously studied graphic art in their home country. So what brings them to India?
“I wanted to change my way of life and learn different things. India is home to so many different cultures and these different cultures and behaviours then influence my work,” says Armin. “Every artist loves challenges and each new place has new different challenges to offer. I wanted to bring my culture and Indian culture together to create a new style, to change my thoughts and beliefs about my artwork. India is one of the few places where artists keep traditional art alive, almost everywhere else in the world, it is all about contemporary art.”
“After I finished my diploma in painting, my professor at college told me go to India saying that I would find lots of ideas amidst its many cultures. India is also known for its historic sculptures, which I wanted to learn so that I could combine it with my knowledge to create a new style, of contemporary art,” chimes in Majid.
What Armin also notices is that Indian art is more connected to reality, while, he feels, Iranian art is more conceptual and abstract. This is also where his heritage reflects in his artwork, especially in the recent exhibition where he displays “conceptual” artwork comprising photographs of tree trunks/barks, each reflecting a philosophical thought.
Majid’s learning is a little different. “One of my best friends in Bangalore is the sculptor Ramamurthy, from whom I learn lots of techniques, including the process of making tools, which is important in Indian sculpture because the tools are also unique and they are considered holy and respected.”
His works, mainly sculptures, in the exhibition, he says reflect his learning of the traditional techniques while his concepts reflect his Iranian heritage. Both of them have similar reasons for choosing Bangalore to study art. “Before I came, I did some research on India and I found out that Bangalore is one of the few places where people speak many different languages unlike other places, like Tamil Nadu where people usually don’t speak anything other than Tamil. Ramamurthy was another reason why I chose Bangalore, plus the weather is good.”
“It is one of the better cities,” agrees Armin. “But I also chose Bangalore for the college. One of the best things about it is the gallery space where different Indian and foreign artistes showcase their work. I also like the fact that we have regular workshops by practising professionals.”
“But one of the most important reasons why we chose India is because I feel to closer to Indians, perhaps because our cultures are so close.
I find Indians very friendly compared to Europeans or Americans, they understand me better,” finishes Majid.