• 24 October 2016
  • Posted By Roya Pourmand
  • 0 Comments
  • Culture, Events in DC, Sanctions

Mehdi Ghadyanloo: Beautifying Tehran One Wall at a Time

After answering an open call for artists in 2004, Iranian muralist, Mehdi Ghadyanloo was commissioned by the Tehran City Municipality to paint over 100 colorful murals. A city once covered in political paintings, either in remembrance of Iran-Iraq War martyrs or with negative slurs regarding America, Tehran had almost 5,000 bare walls to paint. When he found out it was possible to beautify the walls of Tehran, he took his chance and began to brighten up the city with his colorful, surrealist art. As part of the Future of Iran Initiative, the Atlantic Council hosted a conversation this past Thursday with Ghadyanloo and David Furchgott, the President of International Arts & Artists.

In his murals, Ghadyanloo tries to convey a message of hope, a positive message he believes should be expressed in all public works of art. He feels that hope is a universal message. “You need hope, as an Iranian under a sanctioned country, as a country in the Middle East, or even as citizens of America. I think we all need hope and public art can create this balance,” said Ghadyanloo.

Furchgott pointed out that Ghadyanloo’s art has often been compared to Magritte, a well-known Belgian surrealist artist. However, he added that Ghadyanloo’s art “has much more of a modern sensibility and is much less connected to any particular culture, they’re very universal.” Ghadyanloo attributed his universality to reading novels and watching films from “every corner of the world” in order to gain a better understanding of certain peoples.

Although his work is universal, much of his work was influenced by his own life, growing up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. Contrary to the messages of hope and positivity in his public murals, Ghadyanloo channeled the memories of fear and loss experienced in the war through many of his private pieces. One of his most vivid childhood memories was seeing images of the 1988 Iran Air flight being shot down, which he represented in “Logic of Metaphysics” and “290 Wandering Souls.”

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When asked how sanctions have impacted his work, Ghadyanloo replied that the quality of paint in both his public and private art have been compromised due to sanctions. He indicated that sanctions can be felt in all corners of Iran, not only in the art industry. He told the story of farmers, such as his own father, who could not find reasonably priced pesticides due to the sanctions. Ghadyanloo also indicated that the art scene in Iran has also been constrained by H.R. 158, a recent law that bars visa-free travel to the U.S. for persons who hold dual nationality from or have traveled to a list of restricted countries, including Iran. According to Ghadyanloo, the restrictions have stopped European art collectors from visiting Iran due to their desire to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

Ghadyanloo has been fortunate to obtain a US visa and export his works outside the country, yet the average Iranian artist may not have these privileges. Ghadyanloo is currently working on the new mural at Dewey Square Park in Boston, titled “Spaces of Hope.” This will be the fifth mural featured on the Greenway Wall, each painted by a different international artist.

Find photos of Mehdi Ghadyanloo’s works on his Instagram and Facebook page.

Posted By Roya Pourmand

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