Dariush Alexander is a Vancouver based artist and tattooist. Dariush’s artworks – often depicted with a vibrant colour palette – and intricate, line-work tattoos, are all rich in narrative and allegory. They are also unlike anything else we’ve seen on the local art scene.
Understandably, we had to know more about the person creating this intriguing language of images…
First of all, please tell me a bit about yourself and your artistic background. What’s your story?
My name is Dariush Alexandra Ghaderi Barrera. I am an artist currently based on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam nations. I grew up in Mexico City and was always drawn to art in all its shapes and forms.
What is “post folk”?
Just for fun I wanted to come up with a sort of personal avant-garde concept that would explain better the work I do. My work is very influenced by the traditions and art history from Mexico and Iran that I experienced growing up.
The fact that I have been living, creating and learning outside of those spaces and context affects the ways I approach my work. I went to art school in Vancouver where the art I was interested in wasn’t studied because the program is mostly centred on a western agenda.
I am not doing retablos or miniatures but something else that is a result of my diasporic, hybrid and queer identity, which, even though has roots in folk and it serves as channel for me to connect to it, my position brings me far from the possibility of adhering fully and forces me to make something new. That’s why I called it post folk.
Who or what have been your biggest influences and inspirations?
My biggest inspirations come from so many art forms and moments, or even the desire of feeling like I remember something long lost. I am inspired by artisans or anyone who takes their craft as a ritual, by music that is old and melancholic as well as by new music that makes me feel like the old and melancholic. By the scent of fresh untouched nature as well as the one of putrid urban landscapes. I am inspired by survivors and by storytellers who know of goddesses but also understand forgotten trinkets covered with dust.
Something that strikes me about your artwork is that you seem to have created your own iconography and alternative world or reality. Please tell me more about the characters and places you depict, and where they come from.
I do try to create my own characters and iconography. In the tradition of my favourite surrealist painters Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington, I love to create meaning based on my personal oneiric visions and experiences, that are present but yet hidden, creating a sort of occult narrative and visual language and spirituality that can be read differently by the viewer depending on their own context and interpretations.
When and why did you decide to translate your artwork into tattoo form?
I chose tattooing as a method of survival, to buy food and pay rent. I was talking to a friend of mine who is an artist and illustrator about the struggles to make a living as an artist and how much this changed when they decided to start tattooing, I saw how their illustrations and practice translated so well into tattooing and could see my work doing the same. I thought maybe all those doodles on my sketchbook could become tattoos, and some have! The fact that tattooing is a strong commitment and a ritual which requires concentration, care and respect really drew me in, as well as the fact that you get to know and establish a connection with different people through the artwork. Passing it directly from the mind through the hand into someone’s skin in a permanent way is something quite meaningful.
What are you working on these days? What themes or subject matter are you currently interested in exploring, and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
After completing the exhibition at Slice of Life Gallery in July, I started working on another exhibition, along with artist Hana Amani, that comprises a series of etchings related to the Tarot, connecting our own practices and visions and reinterpreting the meaning of the major arcana, honouring the connection between printmaking and divination. The exhibition is called “Predictions”. It was up for a month and happened at the Massy Arts Society gallery.
At the moment I have no exhibitions planned and I’m trying to focus on my mental and emotional health as well as tattooing.