Interview: Azita Panahpour
Luca Curci talks with Azita Panahpour during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2021 – 14TH EDITION, at Misericordia Archives.
Azita Panahpour (born in Tehran, Iran) is a contemporary abstract artist living in New York. In her “Shattered Poem” paintings, she explores feelings of displacement, loss, and identity, by creating a dynamic gestural vocabulary drawn from the Farsi alphabet. The alphabet’s sculptural curves, lines, and shapes become the basis of visual dialogue, built with variations in scale, repetition, and sense of ephemeral movement. The images – set in multi-layered, distressed backgrounds – dance, fall, intertwine and emerge with a deep emotional statement that transcends any literary expression. The “Shattered Poems” are a collision of past and present, loss and hope, culture and art, an individual depiction of a universal sentiment. As a multi-disciplinary artist, Azita’s works are in many private collections and have been selected for exhibits including The Other Art Fair New York 2017, 2018; AD ART SHOW at Sotheby’s 2018 and in the Oculus 2020, 2021; The Other Art Fair Los Angeles 2020 Online.
Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Azita Panahpour – My career began as an art director for an advertising agency in New York where I became fascinated by typography and design. Words crafted in a layout, the choice of typographic styles and ways of manipulating size and space can have a very defining impact on the presentation of the written content. For my fine art paintings, I wanted to continue my explorations of phrases, words and letters only this time to have a focus on the Farsi alphabets to present my background. The paintings began as a challenge of visualizing a verse from Rumi, a 13th-century Sufi poet. More than classic calligraphy, I wanted my work to reflect a contemporary approach to combining Farsi language and painting. I began by isolating the verse to select words. I looked at the words as formations and the letters as shapes. I continued to cut and select the letters until I was left with a few that presented themselves as a rhythmic diagram on my canvas. A single beat repeated in various forms and at times interrupted by a different note, all composed on fragmented colored backgrounds, appeared to harmoniously mimic my identity.
LC – What are your thoughts while you paint? Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
AP – I am often visualizing a Persian poem. Many times in the poems the last alphabet of the phrase is the same, creating rhythm and visual beauty. In my painting, this alphabet appears on its own. At times as a chain and other times as a shape conformed by the fallen pieces. There is the metaphor of change, loss as well as the idea of holding on and persistence.
LC – How is your creative process?
AP – The paintings begin as a design. I take one alphabet, size, rotate, move, and repeat it to find a rhythm that has a sense of emotion. For the series “Shattered Poems”, I have chosen to work with the Nastaliq style of the Farsi alphabet. Although my work is not traditional calligraphy, it is important for me to work with elements of this style as it is rooted in my culture from Iran.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
AP – Over the years I have placed more emphasis on the textural background. The letters are carefully designed to make a beautiful formation. Placed on a multi-textured painted background, it becomes a distressed elegance and more connected to my story of loss, the passage of time and fading memories.
LC – Which subject are you working on?
AP – I am continuing to work on the visual language of letters and making language as art. The idea of creating a universal language with various forms of alphabets is very appealing to me.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the exhibition or as a part of preexisting works?
AP – “Shattered Poems” is an ongoing series. It is titled by numbers in the series. The one on exhibit is “No. 34”.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
AP – One of the objectives in my art is to find a way to make a language more universal. With this, I hope to find ways to have people from different parts of the world relate to others. By taking an expected icon such as an alphabet from a specific language and turning it into a formation that is saying something with its shapes, lines, and dimensions instead of it being associated with a word.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
AP – ITSLIQUID GROUP creates opportunities for artists from around the world to be able to exhibit their work in other countries. It’s important to keep an open dialogue with art.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
AP – Yes. The team is very passionate about what they do.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
AP – Yes. Definitely, ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent opportunities for artists.