spring won’t come with a bunch of flowers


ghalamDAR is at the cutting edge of the reinvention of iranian street art. the tehran-based artist has taken a side step from most other iranian street artists, who merely imitate the street art one finds in the west. having been out on the streets for years now, ghalamDAR, creates a juxtaposition between traditional persian calligraphy, modern iranian iconography and the wild-style graffiti of the new york streets. it’s all about the negargari, it’s all about the khattati… it’s all about farsi and arabic script tagged across walls in whimsical motion, accompanied by colours and imagery that reference beginnings in the west. ghalamDAR, along with others at the forefront of this innovation, is forging a new aesthetic in graffiti that is deeply rooted in the sands of the east.
interview with i.t.a.

check the ghalamDAR gallery

ghalamDAR it is such a pleasure to have the chance to chat with someone who is really leading a new wave in an art movement that is normally seen as the domain of the west. thanks for taking time out for powder.

firstly, what do you think street art gives to the wider community? and how is street art being embraced by the Iranian public?

We are the nation who made a revolution happen by graffiti, so I believe graffiti has always been an important way of communicating and expressing for us though it had different purposes at different times. Whether it was a form of fighting and informing during the revolution or a form of media for the current regime to advertise its Islamic slogans or as a form of art and cultural resistance for me and my workmates.

what position do the authorities take to graffiti in iran? is it illegal? have you ever been in trouble with the law because of your creations?

I’ve been in trouble a couple of times. The biggest problem is that there is no exact law to clarify our crimes, so when they arrest us they simply report our crimes in whatever way they feel about it. Like it’s revolting against the government or confusing the public mind or vandalism or Satanism,etc. I can clearly remember the first time I was arrested… They blindfolded me and brought me to a paramilitary camp for interrogating and I was only 15-years-old. It broke me into pieces.

what was the appeal of the streets for you? why not just create at home or in a studio? when did you begin and how did you get out on the street at first?

I’m sure it was something more than just excitement. The main colour you see in Tehran is grey so maybe I wanted to add more colours to my hometown when I was younger. One thing that I’m sure about is that I want to express myself and share my thoughts widely; it’s like a very huge hugging. What I like about it most is breaking the habit and expectancy of watching the same wall you were passing by every day.

when creating a new work, just who is your muse? where does your inspiration come from?

My works are mostly raised from my own personal life, my everyday life, what I’m surrounded by.

you’ve taken some new and innovative directions in the iranian street art movement. how did that all come about? how has the reaction been?

As we’ve never truly experienced a hip-hop sub-culture in Iran I believe that the roots of Iranian street art lie somewhere else than hip-hop. It’s about searching for our unique identity. What makes a society different and gives it a unique character are such things like its traditions and social streams. Approximately parallel with the hip-hop and western graffiti we had our own kind of graffiti serving the revolution. I’m searching for my own thick old roots.

and just what is the iranian street art scene like? who should we keep an eye out for?

“Spring won’t come with a bunch of flowers.”

I believe the Iranian street art scene has not grown yet. We are not many. Many of us have not found our way yet. I believe it will take a lot of time and endeavour to see an active Iranian street art scene.

you used to collaborate with elf crew for some time. what was that like? what’s it like to have an ongoing partnership with another artist?

I’m still collaborating with other artists; we’re just not working under one name as a crew. I’ve always loved team work… it boosts almost every process and you gain a lot of valuable experiences. Having a crew is all about sharing and responsibility. The years which I worked with Elf crew were the best years of my life; they were great friends and workmates to me.

last year you worked on a project that was inspired by the saqqakhaneh movement of the sixties and seventies. what was that all about?

It wasn’t just a project; it was the beginning of me reaching my own artistic expression. Searching for my identity and Iranian identity has always been a concern for me from the start. I’ve always been trying to discover, understand and use my own culture in my works. I’ve always been curious to find out the influences of the 1979 Iranian revolution and its graffiti, social streams, Iranian art movements and the influence of elder art masters on me and my works. So I started to study them and became inspired by them both in form and concept. This curiosity led me on a whole new path. And it still continues… I’m still studying, discovering, creating and experimenting in this way.

which artists from abroad have been an influence on you?

Not much from graffiti artists, though lately I follow the graffuturism website and the artists presented there… I have to mention that most of the artists who have strong influences on me are musicians.

and for the rest of twenty fourteen, just what have you got coming up? any new projects? any exhibitions?

Of course… I’m constantly working… There will be plenty of exhibitions around the world, books, and documentary films about Iranian graffiti… You’ll be informed at the time, I’d rather keep it a surprise… For now I can tell you that there will be a group exhibition next month, we will have a different, new look at Negar-gari (miniature) in this exhibition and you’ll see very different work from me…

once again ghalamDAR it has been an absolute pleasure. it’s not often that we get the chance at powder to feature such unique art as yours.

check out ghalamDAR on flickr

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