Nastaran Mazloumi describes herself as “an unfit human being to this earth life”. She says that soon after she became wise enough to understand her true self, she found herself lost in the complex world of human beings. That was when she started using art as her refuge to escape from what she calls “the forced bitter truce of this world”, which she feels she so unwillingly lives in. You can find more of Nastaran’s work at http://www.nastaranmazloumi.com.
How did your early life in Tehran, Iran, help shape your interest and passion for art?
I was born in a family where my mum and dad both had full-time jobs, so I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents. My grandma has a very special character and that influenced me and my life in many aspects. I somehow feel like I am living the life she didn’t. She was born in 1944 in Tehran into a very traditional and religious family. She was a single child and had a challenging childhood. She got married at the age of 16 and lost her mum when she was very young. My grandpa was an army colonel during Shah Mohammadreza Pahlavi’s rule. He also had a Bachelor of Psychology from Tehran University. He was a very disciplined man who loved reading novels and poetry. When my grandma decided to continue her education and enter university, my grandpa was very supportive of her. My grandma was into art and crafts. She did crotchet, embroidery and miniature sculpture with clay. When she went out to shop for relevant materials for her art practice, she bought stuff for me too! So, when were home, she would make her art and I would look at her and follow what she was doing. I very much enjoyed playing with different yarns and clays. I used to smell and touch them before making my own little art as a kid. That was when I entered the world of joy and colour and the world of creativity. When my grandpa retired, he opened a bookshop. As a child, one of my favourite recreations was to go and visit him at his bookshop. He brought us many books and brain-teaser toys from his shop. Through these, I learned about Jules Verne, Jane Austin and Mark Twain and many more authors that I can’t remember. So, a combination of love for art and literature shaped my childhood core beliefs.
My sister was a big fan of Disney characters and movies. She spent time drawing Disney characters during the school holidays and I enjoyed joining her. She was my main role model for illustration and character design. We drew so much together and she encouraged me to participate in art competitions at and outside school.
Tehran in general is a very artistic place! There are hundreds of street cafes and modern restaurants where you can sit, relax, meditate and enjoy the magnificent Persian design of the place. Persian monuments, murals and architecture inspire me too, and I use elements of them in my illustrations. Persian architecture is full of colour and detail and mystical knowledge. Even after migrating, I still watch YouTube and videos on social media about Iran and Tehran to stay creative and sane.
Tell us a bit about your migration story. How has your migration to Australia impacted your arts practice?
As a woman who was born in a country that has suffered brutal occurrences over the last few decades, which resulted in the destruction of much culture, pushing back development and modernism to about a thousand years ago, where women lost rights and respect, I felt forced to leave Iran. My relationship with Iran is a love-hate relationship! While I am dying to live in my motherland, I can’t tolerate the inhuman behaviour against women there. I suffer while feeling like I can’t do anything. So I started to use my art to somehow illustrate my emotions and feelings about this separation from my motherland (migration!).
Migration is like a sad story. While you think you have made the right decision for yourself and your loved ones to leave your motherland, you question yourself: ‘What if I could have stayed?’ There is no right answer to this question, and for me the best thing I found to do was to bring my motherland to where I migrated. I decided to bring artistic elements of Iran into my art and also into my art studio here in Australia. I designed my art studio with dark green and burgundy colours and I tend to enjoy a cup of Persian tea with a taste of rose petals inside of it!
I create characters that are mainly women, detached from their roots. My female characters have wavy hair, which represents the storm of thoughts and worries in their heads and their feelings of being far away (oceans apart) from their motherland. Some others have roots, either grown on their feet or which surround them, or which pull them up. The roots represent the women’s attachments to their motherland, to the origins of their identity and to their emotions.
Architecture appears as a recurring idea in your artworks. What do you look to capture in your artworks centering on a city’s architecture? What have you noticed in your studies of these architectural structures across different cities?
The architecture you see in my artworks is all Persian. It does not only represent Iranian culture, symbols and meanings, but also how I feel for them. Most of the monuments in my artworks have been either destroyed or vandalised in Iran. While you see European architectural aspects and aesthetics in most artworks in the modern world, you rarely see Persian architecture! So I feel it is not fair for this beautiful art to go unseen. In addition, I somehow left my soul in between those tiles of the Persian architecture – those colourful tiles, which bring much joy and emotion to me. Architecture and smells! The smell of rose, the smell of fresh clay, the smell of colours and perfumes I used to wear when I was with my loved ones in the city still mesmerise me. I would like to take this with me, have this with me and live it and eventually die with it. Dying in exile is how I interpret my feelings toward my motherland and my life journey after migration. And until then, my art will keep me sane and alive.
What are your current aspirations for your engagement with your arts practice?
I have several goals. One is to share my feelings with my audience and to find people like me. The second is to sell my art as blouses with silk fabric, one of the most valuable and old fabrics used in Persia back in the day. This way I can represent my emotions as a female who left Iran but one who still feels attached to its culture and art. I also think of selling mono prints and paintings on ceramic plates and mugs as another way of sending this piece of emotion to people. Whenever they see this stuff, I hope they will pause for a second and think about the message behind this piece of art.
However, my biggest dream is to be able to present my art at well-known galleries and to be able to share my story with other people. I really love communicating with people and storytelling! Everyone has a story to tell and I would like to hear about them. I would like to see if people relate with my art and if so, what is their story?
I would like to break down barriers and communicate with people myself. This is why I have set up my own website – to be able to communicate with people around the world.
What do you hope people will experience in viewing your artworks?
What a great question! It is interesting that whenever I create a character or a story, I have an imaginary dialogue with an imaginary audience explaining the work and how I would like others to see it. I believe that, these days, humans don’t think too much or too deeply about where they are going, where they have come from, what their emotions are, and how they can communicate their feelings with others. I want people to think about how they can see and sense the world around them the way it is, without headsets, mobile phones and laptops – how they can listen to other people’s stories and see if there is a story to tell. I want to remind people that every human has a story to tell and in all tales there are so many common feelings – this shows us we are all one! I want people to see that we are ALL ONE!