Born and raised in Iran, artist Golnaz Kiany received her BA in Painting from Soore University (Tehran) in 2013. Now, almost a decade later, following stints with many highly-esteemed artists and having shown her work in important galleries in major cities around the world (including her current home base of Vancouver), Golnaz is a well respected artist in her own right, both domestically and internationally.
We recently had the pleasure of trying to catch up with this talented and insightful artist, thinker and mover…
You’ve been living in Vancouver for about two years now – what was the path that led you here?
We live in a single world rather than a world with borders. Most of our foods, drinks, clothes, games and even behaviours are similar. I believe the rules and regulations of these borders are the reason for our little difference and these facts play very little role in my work and life.
I was born in 1988 in Karaj. This city is located on the Iranian border. Therefore, administrative and legal papers introduce me as an Iranian citizen, however, I call myself a world citizen.
I grew up similar to others in a predetermined educational system, I made art my first choice as soon as I came to the position of personal choice.
I came to know Mehrdad Mohebali, an important artist during my education. We worked together in the same workshop after my graduation. I experienced a lot of things in that period. For instance, I realized I prefer to live in a cold and quiet place rather than a busy and warm place. I live in Vancouver now, a place in the world that is closer to what I prefer.
Themes of immigration, home, rebuilding/resettling and redefining happiness have all featured prominently in your recent paintings. How have these themes affected you personally, and why did you choose to explore them now?
Painters can carry on producing from any place. Their mentality is always with them and they can fit their small tools simply in a bag. They have a light bag but a heavy mentality. The experience of moving (I would prefer to use “move” rather than immigration) created new challenges for me. Let me give an example:
Suppose we are going to travel for a few months, we pick up a number of accessories that we think we will use and we don’t take many things. This is a wise selection process as well as a strange moment. We realize that we have an emotional connection with unnecessary accessories and it is difficult to leave them. But if we take them with us, our luggage gets so heavy that we can no longer move. We have to choose either travelling without some accessories or staying with all of them and losing the travel experience. In this example, two senses are simultaneously formed. Fear for distancing from the known past and joy of approaching the unknown future. Moving always brings me fear and joy.
What does being happy mean to you right now, and how has this idea changed or evolved over the years?
I believe happiness is right at the moment. Moving towards better conditions. I am one of those people who does not stay in a good position and is always looking for better and the best. I’m always on the move. This move, however, has created a double rhythm in me. The first rhythm is in the environment and gradually makes me want to accompany. Here I find the desire for physical displacement. I release myself in this rhythm and a move takes place. In the new situation, this rhythm hypnotizes me and turns into a song. This song makes me see myself and the world in a new way. This is the peak of happiness. The joy of dancing to your own inner song. But whatever is repeated too much becomes boring and boredom is the enemy of happiness. So the next move begins.
How do you keep inspired and/or motivated?
External move leads to internal move and some questions are raised. Some of these questions are unanswered. For example, how deep is life? What is the extent of kindness and violence in humans? When some of these questions occupy my mind and become important but I can’t find any answers, I find the motivation to paint. I paint to get closer to the answer or ask questions to others.
“I get the news from people I see or know. Political news is always disappointing but the news inside people is full of hope. Hope made the world and I listen to the voice of the world.”
What draws you to a certain subject or scenario?
I like people who are on the move. People who do not accept what they are and where they live and try to reach a better position. I become happy when I paint them.
People, human performances and relationships seem central to everything that you do. How have recent/current world events affected your attitudes or feelings about people and their behaviours?
Most of the events that take place in the world take me away from my thoughts. Additionally, I’m sure a large percentage of the news is exaggerated. They do not inform the news, they take advantage of news for their own benefit. I do not trust news networks. They interpret the news from their own perspective or interest. They do not inform the news, they profit from the news for their own benefit. I get the news from people I see or know. Political news is always disappointing but the news inside people is full of hope. Hope made the world and I listen to the voice of the world.
I’m intrigued to know more about your process, including the incorporation of some sort of unusual materials (plastic, t-shirt)…
I have a great desire to paint when a concept comes and occupies my mind. After some time of arguing with the concept while painting, the initial image is formed. Next, I focus more on the shapes than the initial concept. This path continues until I am convinced. At this stage, I normally deal with unusual materials and I go for handy materials like nylon, different adhesives, seeds etc. When I find the most suitable materials, the main work gets started. I have the general concept and form of painting in my mind, I don’t get distance from them and work freely.
Your 2014 painting of women hula hooping – one in your “Play” series – is a standout feature on the wall at Delara restaurant. I’d love to know a bit more about your relationship with Bardia and how this came about?
When it is impossible to desire to live happily, it leads individuals to disappointment. One of the human reactions in these situations is to pretend to be happy. A number of young girls in swimsuits are hula hooping where there is no pool and while everyone alone is busy imagining a place that is not available. They do not want to accept disappointment. It may be interesting to point out that all of these girls have moved today and are happy.
What are your thoughts on art installations in restaurants, and their relationship to food and the dining experience?
In my opinion, a gallery or museum is not the place for artwork. These two places are like a shop window. A place to display the goods, not its application. The artwork is frozen there.
I’m glad that one of my works is located in a place Delara restaurant, where people come to eat, have fun and socialize. Bardia is also one of the people who dares to move with the hope of achieving a better situation. He is a man of action.
I don’t know, but I hope people socialize with my paintings as well. This way my work is not frozen anymore and lives next to a group of restaurant servants and attendants, similar to being adopted.