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Interview with Nasim Davari about "From Shahnameh" Exhibition at Aaran Projects  

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Aaran Projects hosts Nasim Davari's solo show titled "From Shahnameh", running from April 29 to May 13, 2022. We interviewed Nasim Davari about this exhibition.  

Nasim Davari | From Shahnameh | Show Installation | Aaran Projects | 2022


  • What is the subject of this show? 

The subject of this show [as it is clearly expressed by its title] is Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. I selected some characters from the book and pictured a portrait of them based on the stories ahead of them.  

  • Is there a specific reason for selecting these characters and stories? 

I selected characters which had more visual significance for me and I could use their icons based on the stories related to each one of them.  

  • Considering the fact that Shahnameh is an important part of your work, is there any source of inspiration affecting your procedure? In other words, what visual sources and artistic forms have influenced your work? 

In my paintings, I have always tried to refer to the original text of Shahnameh. I was not interested in using various interpretations and reviews. I intended to achieve a direct personal understanding of  Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. 

  • Is this show related to your previous shows? What position do you conceive for this show relative to the previous ones? I want to know if there is a kind of research being done here or is it just another exhibition along with the previous ones? 

My previous show presented a reading of The Conference of the Birds. The paintings I created had implicit references to the original text. That is because the book is full of mystical concepts; a quality which provided me with more freedom to deviate from the text. In the current show, however, I am confined to referring to the original text. These experiments were good reasons for me to keep this project running.  

Nasim Davari | Zaal | 2021 | oil on canvas | 140 × 100 cm


  • I would like to know if there is any reason behind the multiplicity of portraits in your work?

Many visual experiments have been performed related to Shahnameh and many artists have illustrated it so far. However, as I was searching, it seemed that no iconography has been done in this regard, or at least I couldn't find any. So I was eager to create one; this was more interesting for me and I thought that this could present a new way of thinking about Shahnameh.  

  • I would like to know about the color palette and the technique you used. Did you use wet-on-wet (Alla-Prima), glazing, or other techniques? And would you please also explain if your technique has helped you in any way to depict your subjects and to achieve the picture you wanted? 

I follow the classic techniques with oil paint. I tried to use everything I have learned and every possible technique. So I cannot specify exactly which method I have used. It is because I learn as I work; I mean I learn new things from my experiments while working. My paintings are created in the process of working. I don't sketch beforehand, that is not how I work. My sketches are always completely different from the final results. 

  • How far would you go in limiting your color palette? During the process of choosing your colors, do you insist on using specific ones or you let the process lead you?  

I suppose some matters are handled subconsciously. Everyone has some colors in their subconscious that always appear in the palette and the artist often uses them. 

  • We asked this question because it seems that there is a unique color space in your paintings that is apparently your signature. It is actually your subjective understanding that constantly appears in your works.  

Yes, I think it is more related to my subconscious. I need to mention that to some extent I have followed a symbolic approach in choosing my colors. For instance, I wanted the red color to appear in the portrait of Zahhak. The pale colors in the portrait of Simurgh are also deliberately applied, especially compared to the previous Simurghs I have painted. This Simurgh is the one present in Shahnameh; the one rising from all those wars and other events. So this one has no vivid colors, no freshness, and motion to it. Despite all these symbolic approaches, most of my choices are made subconsciously.