Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes; and it is indeed a natural instinct to alter it to accept the darker sides of human nature. Iranian-born, Norway-based artist Ashkan Honarvar follows this instinct with his obscure mixed-media collages. Frequently using various printed materials to form his art, Honarvar’s peculiar choice is medical books, and this is no surprise. His obsession with the human figure is the focal point of Honarvar’s work, leading to inevitable explosions.
Ahead of his huge personal project, which circles around the concept of superheroes, Honarvar sat down with Schön! to talk to us about his perception of beauty, darkness and the endless urge to create.
You were born in Shiraz, Iran, and are currently based in Norway. How do these two different cultures shape your artistic perspective?
I have been living in more places than Norway or Iran, and have experienced many more cultures than these two. At the end I’m pretty sure that these different cultures have shaped me as an artist but not in a direct way, more subconsciously.
How would you define beauty?
Confusion and bliss in a split second. That moment where you’re not sure if that is the right feeling that you’re supposed to have. Beauty for me hits you like a bus. It happens in a blink of an eye. It’s there or it’s not, it’s violent.
Many years ago, when I was studying, I stumbled on a photograph from Jeffrey Silverthorne entitled Woman Who Died In Her Sleep, depicting a corpse of a woman on an autopsy table after her examination. There is this dreamlike vibe to the whole photo, the way her arms are placed and the gentle calmness in her expression. At the same time you can see the harsh reality in the way the autopsy has been done and the rough stitches. This photograph has since then inspired me so much in understanding beauty.
Altering the human figure is a common motif in your works. Do you use this as a metaphor for a duplicity or morphosis in human nature?
Definitely! The human body plays a big role in almost all my work. It started with the fascination to change the human form drastically, while it maintained some kind of logic in its anatomical “shape”. Later on I started to tell different stories through this form of expression. Til this day, I believe, for me, the best way for to understand the human nature is through human form itself.
Can you talk a bit about your creative process?
It’s different every time. Sometimes, a single image can trigger a whole project. But there are several rules that I have made for myself. I have noticed very early that my work got better because there were restraints. For example, every project has to have a story; I can’t just do random works. There must be a concrete idea. Also everything has to be handmade. Furthermore, I try not to reuse the same material twice. That way, everything looks different and you don’t repeat yourself aesthetically. At first I was bit concerned that because of this way of working I wouldn’t create a clear “style” in my work, but that didn’t happen. It only forced me to think better conceptually, to form a unity in my work.
In the last few years I have been more and more into fashion collaborations. For me, all these collaborations are like art projects. Subject-wise, they are not like my regular work, but aesthetically they are similar. The total freedom to create for these fashion collaborations, and the amazing photo material that I use in the collages just keep me coming back for more.
What is your opinion on the copyright problems in mixed media art? Do you think this whole idea is a bit ‘early 2000s’?
We live in a time of information; it’s everywhere. Personally, as an artist, I believe you should have the freedom to react to this information freely. In my work, I literally take this information around me in as photographs and images and react to it in my own way.
To me, your works bear similarities to the dark aesthetic of David Lynch and David Cronenberg movies. Which directors inspire your creative universe?
Thanks! Movies are a big source of inspiration for me; I’m a big fan David Cronenberg. Especially his older movies like the Video Drome. That movie was way ahead of its time. But also Pier paolo Passolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom was a masterpiece, visually and conceptually. And also Terrence Malick, Matthew Barney, Lars von Trier, Andrezej Żuławski, Michael Haneke, Miklós Jancsó and Alejandro Jodorowsky, to name but a few.
Who is your dream collaborator?
That is an easy one; I would definitely have loved to collaborate with Alexander McQueen. His works were the main reason I got interested in fashion collaborations in the first place. His dresses and shows were from another world. Just amazing.
For more information and images of Ashkan Honarvar’s work, click here.
Words / Bugu Melis Caglayan