After years of rejection in her home country, talented artist Shaghayegh Shojaian finally gets the chance to shine.
Establishing herself as an artist has not been easy for Iranian born Shaghayegh Shojaian. However, thanks to her unique talent and fierce determination, she has attracted the attention of art lovers across the globe; and in doing so, freed herself from the constraints of her native chains.
Tell us about the beginning of your career as an artist. How did you start? Have you always known, at some level, that was what you wanted to do?
Yes of course, I always knew that I wanted to paint. I loved painting from my childhood, but as my life situation was so different and somehow unusual, I could never choose. At first I studied mathematics in high school and I was successful in that field. I was accepted as an electronic engineer at university but I quit and started to study painting at the art university.
What is it like working as an artist in today’s society?
As an artist or as a female artist? In Iran everything is complicated for women. Not only am I a female artist, but my life situation is very different from other female artists too.
Tell us about the process of making your pieces.
Many years ago, when I started to paint seriously, it was similar to solving a math equation for me. The big question in my mind was ‘Is it possible in painting, to create a harmony among some visual elements which are the opposite of each other and have deep paradoxes?’ To obtain this goal, I worked hard for years, mostly without resting at the weekends. I made so many mistakes and I failed hundreds of times but at last, I could do it. This way became my own art language to produce art. However, lately I have seen some Persian artists who have started to produce art by using my style!
What is your greatest inspiration?
Everything in this world can inspire me, but my greatest inspiration is my inner world. That is why most of the time I prefer to be alone; because the attendance of others interrupts this connection and I cannot feel any more. This is destructive for my art.
How do you feed your creative process? How do you keep things fresh?
With study, research, knowing about the new movements in the art world etc. The major resource to remain creative is the courage of experiencing new ways and by making mistakes. When an artist uses a style that was created before by another artist, it is a safe way with no risk so success will be fast and he won’t make a mistake; he won’t fail and will be accepted easily by others. But ultimately, he is nothing more than a second version of the first artist who created that style. So if we want to grow creativity and power in our personality, we should not be afraid of failing and making mistakes.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
During my art life, I have used and tried so many different materials. These days, I prefer to work with acrylic and sometimes tar and silver leaf.
Do you have a mentor in your life?
Unfortunately not. I am used to finding my way by myself which is not easy at all and I often get hurt.
How do others describe your art?
Their reactions are different but mostly they are surprised and excited. They like my artworks but my style is strange and new for them. They frequently ask ‘What is the name of this style? Is it a new style in painting?’ It seems that my paintings invade people’s minds because whenever I have an exhibition, people ask so many questions about my paintings. I remember in my last exhibition, the owner of the gallery was astonished that so many people asked so many questions about my paintings and said ‘This does not happen in other artists’ exhibitions’.
How is the art scene in Iran?
In Iran, there is a kind of chaos and disorder which is dominant in everything. You see it in its society, its economy and its rules and you can see it in its art scene too. If chaos has a hidden wisdom and intelligence in itself, then it can cause some positive events. To be honest, I see no wisdom or intelligence in the chaotic art scene of Iran these days. Sometimes we see some sparks in the Iran art scene, but as these sparks are so illogical and rootless, they fade after a short time and it makes Iran’s art atmosphere even more fragile. Obviously, in the last few years, other countries have become extremely cautious about art in Iran.
What are the greatest challenges to creating art in the region and in Iran?
We face the same challenges as other artists in other countries, but here these challenges are much more complicated. We all are familiar with the rules, controls, censorships and policies etc. that exist in professional art in all countries. I accept we cannot be idealist, but if these things become too excessive then everything deviates from its balance and it makes the art atmosphere toxic, polluted and barren where no pure and noble art can be created. That’s why almost all of the good Iranian artists do not live in Iran anymore, not even to show their works here. It should be an alarm for Iran art, but nobody seems to care.
How do you think contemporary art in the Middle East has changed in the past few years?
It has changed a lot and has progressed a lot. It seems that the Middle East is trying hard and it has a great eagerness and desire to become one of the main movements of today’s art world. I’m sure in the near future it will happen.
What kind of satisfaction do you get from your art? What kind of satisfaction do you want others to get?
The process of creating art is enjoyable and exciting to me, but it is difficult too. For me, this is so similar to a kind of discovery and adventure. People can only see the result of this discovery but they almost have the same feeling as me. They show enjoyment, excitement and surprise and speak about my art which is nice. I think life can be boring and repetitive and art can always add excitement and variety, making it more tolerable and interesting.
Any future projects coming up?
Sure, always! At the moment I am working hard and nonstop on my new collection. I am trying to produce paintings with high art quality for my next exhibition which I think will happen in Kuwait soon.
Where have you displayed your work so far?
I often displayed my works in Tehran because the gallery that I worked with was in Tehran. I also had shows in the USA and UK and Canada too. However, because most of my artworks were sold as soon as they were produced, there was no time to show or exhibit them. Mostly, my paintings were transferred and sold to New York.
How do you sell your work? How do clients reach you?
I have no talent in art marketing, I just produce art! Therefore, when I was working with Aaran Gallery in Tehran for years, they exclusively managed my art marketing and sold my paintings on my behalf. Before that, other galleries or dealers/curators did that for me.
Your message for us at CP magazine?
I am so thankful to you for giving me this opportunity to speak. This interview is important to me. Whilst holding exhibitions (always with so much stress and fear!) or selling artworks is usual in my life, almost no-one published anything about my paintings in the official press in Iran. I think it is so unjust and nonsense and really heartbreaking that after so many years of working so hard and honest, nobody dared to publish anything about my works in Iran (they all said it is dangerous). Am I really dangerous?! Just because me and some of my paintings are not acceptable to some people in power, they choose to ignore my work completely after all these years of working. Your magazine broke this taboo for the first time in my art life and after so many years, I feel I no longer have to hide like a criminal. I will never forget that, so thank you so much CP magazine!