Facelifting Tehran, One Wall at a Time

Interview with Mehdi Ghadyanloo, a muralist, urban and street artist who lives and works in Tehran, Iran.

21 April 2013

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am 33 years old. I studied art and drawing for undergraduate, followed by a masters degree in animation. I have always loved making art. I don’t know where it began as my family is involved in agriculture.

My work in animation brought me to storytelling and exposed me to surreal short animations which really inspire the visual language which I use in my large scale urban murals today.

What led you to the type of art work you are doing now?

During my studies, a professor of mine, Dr. Kafshchian, to whom I remain indebted, passed on to me his passion for large scale mural work. At that time, all the work produced in the city dealt exclusively with the revolution or the Iran-Iraq war. He opened my eyes to the possibilities beyond what was being made at the time. I then found out about how I can work in the field professionally and have now been painting murals around Tehran for a few years.

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Does the Tehran municipality support your work?

Yes. In fact most of my large-scale work is financed by the municipality. Some 8 years ago, the municipality set up a committee to help promote mural art in Tehran. The city is an architectural mishmash with buildings often having only one facade and the other three just left blank and grey. This doesn’t make for a beautiful city but it is a great environment for mural work. I think the municipality really felt the need to bring some cohesion or at least colour to the often confused and smog-smeared architectural face of the city.

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When you aren’t painting the murals you are famous for, what are you doing?

I teach a course on mural art at Soodeh University in Tehran. But currently, I am also busy preparing for an exhibition at Galleri Geo in Bergen, Norway. This gallery approached me because of their interest in street and urban artists from all over the world. For this exhibition I am preparing a scaled-down collection more suited to gallery space environments.

In addition, we recently won a competition to start work on an inter-disciplinary project which blurs the lines between mural painting, architecture and sculpting. It is a very exciting secret for now.

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What is the biggest challenge faced by young Iranian artists today?

I think there is a big absence of sponsorship or patronage options. The economy is in a terrible state, and it is hard for most artists to make ends meet.

Finally, what is your favourite piece of music right now?

I love the rendition of Across the Universe by Fiona Apple. The video is fantastic and inspiring.

 

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