The question of the other has always intrigued French-Iranian painter, Nazanin Pouyandeh. Perhaps this ambiguity drew me to her work, as I myself have always existed between cultures, floating in limbo or rather an alternate paradisiac where multiculturism is the norm. Fascinated by appropriating the unknown in her paintings, be it another culture, philosophical approach, artistic period or psychoanalytic theory, Pouyandeh often creates an almost mystical world that feels at times mythological and at others biblical.
Reccurring lush green vegetation, alludes to the Garden of Eden or more primitive human times, setting the scene for intertwined lovers and playful friends. Intimate paintings of the nude human form depict our most carnal natures: a need for affection, intimacy and a need to procreate. In her work she explores these ideas, but in a manner entirely uninhibited by the constraints of conventional society. I suppose that is the beauty of art, the mind and soul are free to explore without boundaries. This limitless form of expression is what first drew young Pouyandeh to art. What began as curiosity and creativity developed into indisputable talent.
Exemplary detail of the wind blowing a woman’s hair, a subtle gaze between lovers, almost visible quivers of a bended knee each portray Pouyandeh’s meticulous nature. Her attention to detail coupled with ongoing layers of deep symbolism make her a rare painter in sundry times. We speak with the Paris-based artist about her inspirations, the evolution of sexuality in society and how she began her mission as an artist.
When and how did you fall in love with art?
I was born into a family in which complete engagement to existence was considered the only reason to live. The social and political circumstances in which I found myself at my birth were such that naturally the act of creation was the only synonym of a bubble of oxygen, allowing me to attain, in a subtle manner, the liberty that was repressed in all domains in my country. From a young age, the love of art and the love of creating a new world of my own were sown in me by my parents. I consider painting a mission, I have duties to accomplish towards art and its history.
How does your French and Iranian culture impact your work?
All of my art is the reflection of what I am, of what I live, what I see, what I learn and therefore this is not limited to questions about my national identity but the entirety of my existence as a person beyond cultural frontiers and limitations.
What are some of your strongest inspirations for your art?
It really depends on the evolution of my thinking and of my art and the path that my painting takes. I like surprising myself and allowing myself to be guided by my painting, accompanying it on the voyage that it chooses to undertake. The question of the other, of otherness, the unknown have always fascinated me and I have a sort of obsession – to appropriate this unknown through painting, breathe it in and extract it in my own way. This other can be another culture as well as it could be a philosophical thinking that I’ve discovered, a film, an artistic period in art history, a psychoanalytic theory…in each of these cases I am imaginative but I also need to feel a strong emotion to activate the machinery of my imagination. I’m also a huge observer, what could be more natural when one is a painter, and this multitude of cultures in Paris is a permanent daily source of inspiration. I also consider my work in the continuity of a history of over 30,000 years rather than a rupture from it, so I am very sensitive to the evolution of art during the different epochs of history and this is strongly linked with the evolution of the thought of man. Humanity, its history and its manner of expressing itself through art, these are my inspirations. It’s difficult to name just a few details…
My paintings address all the archaic and primitive preoccupations of man, concerns which are at the same time existential. Desire and sexuality constitute a large part, for this is the only means by which the survival of the human race is assured. Sexuality is a fascinating and complex phenomenon. The act of creation in itself is linked to the energy of the libido. Figurative painting asks the ever-present question of the body. We are already in the permanent realization of an inaccessible fantasy.
What are your thoughts on the evolving acceptability of non-traditional gender roles and sexuality? Are we making progress?
Art permits a liberty of imagination not tolerated in society. I think that we live in a very conservative period. We have gone backwards these past 40 years in this domain and with all the wars and the broken borders and all the different contradictory cultures mixing together we are far from progress regarding individual freedom in the domain of intimacy.
What role does your religion play in your work? It feels at times that you have references to the Garden of Eden.
Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious according to which the myths and tales and thus the different religions have as much influence on the constitution and functioning on part of the brain as do genes, is a phenomenon that jolted my work. So for several years I worked on this common human past that continues to link them together in a quasi-unconscious manner. The myths and archetypes became detectable in my work and changed significations. The human brain is constantly fabricating symbols for everything that we cannot express through language or gestures so in my painting I trust this functioning of my brain, there are not only pre-existing symbols linked to religion and mythology in my work but also symbols that are mine alone.
What expositions do you have coming up?
My next exposition which assembles about 50 works will take place from July 29 to September 11 next year (2017) at the Städtisches Museum Engen + Galerie in Germany and is entitled “L’envers de l’histoire – Die andere Seite der Erzählung” (The Other Side of History). This will be my fourth personal exhibition since January 2016 after Paris (Galerie Sator), Mont de marsan (centre d’art contemporain Raymond Farbos) and Epinal (La lune en parachute – The Parachuting Moon).