Sepideh Mehraban, a contemporary artist practising between Iran and South Africa, is this month’s artist to watch. She explores themes of landscape and recollection and overlays paint as a means of memory and expression. H&G chats to Sepideh about her work, her influencers and her journey as a young travelling artist.
1. Currently, what is the biggest inspiration or starting off point for your work?
I am interested in exploring the possibilities that painting as a medium, material form, and process of mark-making, re-imagining or inscription reflects personal experience. My PhD project is titled: Veiled narratives: Re-imaging and re-imagining personal history in Post-Apartheid South Africa and Post-Revolutionary Iran.
2. Which artist(s) (and artistic movements even) are your biggest influencers?
The works of a number of artists who deal with the interrelation between the personal and the public understanding of socio-political issues (both historical and contemporary), serve as a practical framework within which I conduct my creative practice. These artists include Christian Boltanski, Bracha Ettinger, Shirin Neshat, Ana Mendieta, Neda Razavipour, Gerhard Richter, Marjane Satrapi, Penny Siopis, Nancy Spero, Antonis Tapies and Cy Twombly.
3. What journey have you taken on as an artist, from first starting out to being recognised and noteworthy today?
I have dreamt of becoming an artist since I was young. My family was extremely supportive and encouraged me to enroll in art school. It hasn’t been either an easy nor short journey but I continue enjoying the process. Being an art graduate requires one to find your voice and be heard and this, in turn, requires encouragement, commitment and passion.
4. Do you have any advice or insight for artists working in South Africa?
Dream big and work hard.
5. What is it about the materials and subject matter that you work with that keep you interested and stimulated?
My creative process focusses on the materiality of painting and its performative facility to enact personal experience, pointing to the visual language of mark, making, medium, and surface. I aim to hear the voices of South Africans and Iranians and translate their complex histories of transformation. This is facilitated by ‘collecting’ their personal experiences in the form of (for example) family snapshots and art (visual or otherwise) and recording them as alternative narratives of an ever-elusive ‘truth’.
6. From where do you work?
I work in many different locales and am sensitive of the changing environment. I spend most of my time in my studio in Woodstock in Cape Town. I also lecture part-time at Stellenbosch University and enjoy the varied environment this provides.
For more of Sepideh’s works visit sepideh-mehraban.com.