Habib Farajabadi

Habib Farajabadi in dialogue with Steven Cox

Steven Cox: To begin, can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

Habib Farajabadi: I grew up in a family of familiar tendencies in the art. My older brothers are painter and photographer so my observation had an impact on my art. Therefore, I had the experience of realistic painting from childhood because of my brother's works. When I was in high school I got to know more about different painting styles of art history and I chose to un-follow what I had seen until that time and found my own style.

About 16 years ago, perhaps, I opted to continue my career in painting and art in general and do it more in a significant way, though at the same time I could not continue my studies and join the art academy for some reasons. I do not know what would happen if I had academic experience. I have been on my path since then and I am determined to devote my life to my art besides the limitations and conditions imposed on me in a small town away from the capital city of Tehran where all the facilities centered. At first, I did not have discipline and focus in a certain way of working; however, I was making a lot of drawings and paintings. I was following up the art world flux and I did not ignore any single issue regarding the art world, as much as possible, this includes painting, music, cinema, and literature.

Around 2004, due to receiving a book of drawing, my art perception altered a bit. I could imagine in that years how the quality of abstract art absorbed me and I started to experience abstraction with some small pencil drawings, so it could be my first step in the abstract art world. Since then I have been through bigger steps in art and become more serious.

In 2009 I moved to Tehran where it has a broader art scene with galleries, a museum of contemporary art and more and more. Although Tehran has more to present to an artist as compared to other cities in Iran it is not comparable to the international scale. It was a commence to work with an art gallery in Tehran so I had more serious spectator on my work and therein relations of the art world that moved me forward to a preoccupied way of working in more determined manner.

SC: I am curious if you have a daily working routine? Do you have any morning rituals or habits that contribute towards a productive day within the studio?

HF: I do not have a daily routine though I visit my studio every day and entering the studio there marks a continuity and integrity in working. Usually, every morning I go to the studio and I am there until evening proceeding the work. I have plans for the series I am working on and I try to work in a specific order. Sometimes I work simultaneously on two series and sometimes I only focus on one piece of work. I do some drawings while working on a painting and get inspiration. I occasionally work on my sculptures in between. The only routine I may have is to concentrate on the series I have in mind and I try my best to launch myself into my work, work hard, and to better understand my relationship to the piece.

I believe a good artist, like other occupations, should obey the working hours and go to the work to proceed the work seriously. It might be interesting to mention that I habitually change the arrangement of my working place especially when I am away for a while, traveling, for example, I need to make an order in the studio for the tools and environment that have not been touched for a while and move them to become engaged with space again and flow the working spirit in my surrounding.

SC: To what extent do you consider Tehran as being an influential factor in the shaping of your work? Do you feel that your surroundings have influenced you in one way or another?

HF: The city where we live definitely has an impact in shaping our life and work; however, it has no direct influence on my work. The urban visuals, graffiti, a trace of removed graffiti, posters and unintended images in my surroundings, or the place I may have been to once before, is very interesting for me and are part of my image memory that might show up in part of my works.

SC: You said that you feel that Tehran is not comparable to cities that have a more established arts community. By this, I mean cities like London, New York, LA, Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin. Though, I am interested if you have had the opportunity to personally visit any of these cities to experience the galleries and museums? And if so, did you find these cities inspiring?

HF: I believe talking about Tehran alongside cities like London, New York, LA, Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin could not be right in a comparing scale. Tehran has a lot of differences regarding politics, culture and international debates with these cities. Despite it, the city is wonderful and has a lot of cultural attractions. It has amazing potential for the art scene and there are a significant numbers of galleries that are very active internationally including my gallery.

I have not have the opportunity to visit these cities because of military service limitations until the last four years. I explored them in the books and via the Internet and I hopefully will visit them in person in the close future.

SC: What works are currently in progress in your studio?

HF: Currently I am working on my sculptures and a series of paintings that are a continuation from last year. These paintings have been worked on raw linen with mono-print technique and I try to experience different things to show my thoughts. Parallel to working on this series, I think about the rest of the pieces and sometimes I make a small addition to them.

SC: I am interested in your sculptures and how these act as three-dimensional translations of your paintings. Similar gestural marks and techniques seem to be present in both series of works. Do you wish for your sculptures to be interpreted in a similar way to that of your paintings? Or, do you feel that your sculptures are exploring a completely independent territory? Perhaps you could discuss this series of works and the materials involved

HF: I do not want to interpret them as I do my paintings, also I do not separate them from my two dimension works. As Picasso said, “ everything you can move around it is intended to be considered as sculpture”. It is very common to see some similarities in technique between sculptures and paintings. However, I believe they have their own characteristics in a way and sometimes they go very well with some of my paintings.

SC: Can you please tell me about your studio set up? Would you say that your current studio is ideal, or are you seeking a larger/better space?

HF: My current working space is the third place since I moved to Tehran. It is an old house and the architecture of the building belongs to almost 30-40 years ago located downtown. It is around 100 m2 with two rooms, not big enough however it is a nice and lovely space. Also, there is a 50 m2 yard in the entrance where I work on some of my sculptures. The appearance of the space is now far different from when I first moved in. I have worked on it a lot. The interior of my space, the setup and its tidiness is very important to me. Everything should be as I imagine in my thoughts. I have a 70 m2 workspace and a room for drawing. It has been about one year and a couple of months that I have worked here and I have a good feeling working in it. I believe every artist should make their space their own and not regret what they do not have, or not to just look for their ideal space.

I like it and I made it as I want, however, it is not my ‘ideal’ working space. I think if it had a vaster hall it could be better. I need a bigger space to be able to work more freely on my new sculptures and large paintings. This space has limitations that sometimes bother me. I also need storage for the found materials I collect in the city of which I use in my sculptures. The necessity of enough space for an artist who works with large paintings and sculptures at the same time is inevitable. I am sure I will have my ideal studio soon.

SC: I am interested to know how you plan your works. Do you begin with preparatory sketches of some form, or do you prefer to work in an improvised manner?

HF: I reckon that each individual who is determined to work as an artist should have a continuation in working and making progress. I do not have a preplanned working style; I have a general plan for my work based on my experiences of coquetry with forms in drawings and paintings. It is very rare to have a sketch before starting the work, though I have sketches in my mind regarding what I am going to work on. I believe an artist should be able to imagine very well. An artist who works and imagines a lot could have the ability to approach them easily. I am not such an artist of trying hard to reach something; I fulfill my willing with enthusiasm and experience. All of the things that occur during the working process, I believe are the credit to a practical maturity in working.

In abstract art, there may seem simplicities of form, however, it could not shape by lack of sophistication and all carry a rich expertise. Abstract painting not only depends on the instant result but also on the skills and experiences of an artist gained during the years of work. At the beginning of working, I improvise. I refer to my imagination and all the records I had in mind. I rather paint a process of working than showcasing a pre-sketched work.

SC: I am also curious about the documentation of an artworks creation. Within my own studio, I regularly take images of paintings in progress so I can note specific points in the creation of the work. How regularly do you document the progression of your works? Is it important for you to take note of a works development?

HF: The documentation of the works is of course very important and interesting for me. I take a lot of daily photographs from the process of working and maybe unimportant things in my surrounding. The nature of documenting and recording of my working and production process is very appealing and when you return back to them sometimes it is very exciting especially when a long time has passed. It is like a trip from inside of your thoughts to the outside that is helpful in the progress of working.

SC: In relation to your choice of painting materials, it seems that acrylic and water-based paints are dominant. Could you discuss your choice of materials, and palette that you are currently exploring? I believe that you also mix your own paints using pure pigments?

HF: If I want to talk about color, I could say that I prefer to use less color in my works. I think the material of the color itself has an attraction and it may shift the feeling of form and line in the piece, perhaps because of this, I did not use many colors in my works until 2016. Before that, I was working with mono-color of mainly black paint. I work with water-based paint because it is handier and in my works, and I occasionally use pigments especially when I want to have a specific color on the piece.

SC: To you, are there any specific artists that have been both inspiring and influential?

HF: I think for each artist there are some inspiring artists. I do not get direct inspiration form artists or my surrounding, however, I have been following some artists and it definitely had some effects on my works.

SC: What future exhibitions do you have scheduled?

HF: Probably I will have an exhibition this year in fall in Tehran and a solo in April 2019 in Berlin.

SC: On Instagram, you have a large international following. Though I am interested to know more about your local arts community in Tehran, and to what extent you relate to more local artists? Do you often discuss painting with other artists within Tehran?

HF: I don't think I have a large number of followers compared to some others but I have some serious contacts on Instagram. In Tehran, I have no close connection with other artists and I usually don’t participate in any collectives. Basically, I spend most of my time in my studio. 

SC: In relation to social media and more specifically Instagram, what are your thoughts on this as a platform to engage with new audiences? Do you have a love/hate relationship with Instagram or other online social media platforms?

HF: Social media in the contemporary world plays a crucial roll in our lives. There is a lot to talk about this case and how it influences an individual's social and cultural life especially for those who live in Iran, the Middle East and Eastern Asia. I cannot talk in place of sociologist or media expert about it; however, I can mention some points about my own experience and relationship on Instagram. I take my Instagram page as a promoting space for my art and the most important subject of my posts are about my art practice in my studio. I have been using Instagram as a serious platform for several years and as much as my works shared I have received more audience on my work even from well-known galleries and collectors.

SC: What do you feel are the pros and cons of Instagram, and do you consider Instagram essential for artists working today?

HF: I think any artist, spectator, collector, and professionals in the art could utilize this space in a perfect way to broaden their world and connect to various cultures. This is very important for artists of my region to be able to connect to the serious art scene of international galleries, museums and so on, therefore social media is a great opportunity while displaying the work in the actual world has a lot of limitations.

All the facilities could have negative and positive aspects and I think it depends on our media behavior in using Instagram. I believe in the close future for artists living in the west and in the east, social media could shape more strong relationships with collectors and it will change the concept of galleries in shaping connections between the art maker and the art lover. At least in my situation in Iran and the galleries in Tehran, Instagram could make the opportunity for bright and creative artists to be able to connect with the art world beyond the barrier of their living geography. Instagram is like a book for artists to publish their work, there is a possibility to show works and all the seconds of the working process that is open to the whole world.

SC: Any last points or thoughts you would like to share?

HF: No, nothing specific to mention. I think one of the best moments to start painting is after a conversation.

Habib Farajabadi

Images courtesy of Habib Farajabadi, Dastan Gallery, Gnyp Gallery