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Interview: Morteza Khakshoor's Modes of Representation

Interview: Morteza Khakshoor's Modes of Representation

Lives and works in Santa Ana, California

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

It might be the very cliché artist answer, but it is true; I have been drawing and making things out of whatever was available to me as long as I remember. It was just something I had been doing since I was very little. I cannot recall any particular encouragement nor disapproval from my parents. I did what I wanted to do, and they did not do anything about it really. I went to an art college to study industrial design – I still do not know why I did that! After a year or so I realized that was not what I wanted to do anymore. Couple years after dropping out of college in Iran, I came to the U.S in 2010 and started my fine arts education on the east coast.

Drawing desk; detail

What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

My background is in sculpture and printmaking. When I was studying sculpture in undergrad, I took a printmaking course and was hooked immediately. I have always loved drawing the most, and still do. Discovering printmaking for me was finding a medium so close to drawing that actually – I used to believe – can even elevate drawing to a higher level. Very quickly printmaking became my primary focus and I continued working in printmaking throughout grad school. About a year ago I started feeling that I wanted to paint in addition to drawing and printmaking. I did not have the urge to paint prior to that, strangely. So now I do all of them except for sculpture – which I have been thinking recently about going back to sometime in the future.

Nightfall, Acrylic on birch panel, 12” x 16”, 2021

My plants in the studio with a picture of the divine Maria Callas

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

I have always been interested in various modes of narrative imagery primarily through the representation of human body. Sexuality, eroticism, and history, which all have violence in common, at least in my mind, were interesting ideas for me from the beginning. I still deal with all these themes in my work. In the last couple of years men started to reappear in my pictures more frequently than other characters. At the moment, my pictures – at least the narrative ones – are depicting some sort of male personas that are mostly reacting and responding to some external or internal causes.

Studio wall; drawings

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

This is really impossible to answer. There are so many artists that I like, who inspire me and almost every day I come across new names that I start to like immediately. There are just so many good artists out there. But the thing about this ‘inspirational’ contemporary artists’ list of mine is that it is constantly changing meaning whatever names I mention now, I would replace with different ones probably a week from now. However, there are three artists that I always love and never get bored of: Picasso, Beckmann, and Goya. Picasso more than the other two really. So, the very short answer is Picasso. I am not sure if inspiration is a right word in case of Picasso for me though. I should say he always makes me excited – extremely excited - when no one can. He always keeps me on my toes. He always pulls out something new even if I am looking at the same picture for the hundredth time. Also, I love Hockney, especially his drawings and prints. But who does not love Hockney?!

Studio wall; Studies and works in progress

Where do you find inspiration?

99% of the time in the studio. I do not feel creative at all outside my studio. I go to the studio with no particular idea, story, scenario, etc., in mind. I just can not imagine pictures in my mind the way some artists can. I sit down behind my desk and sometimes on my coach or on the floor and draw things. I draw almost everything; whatever that somehow visually interests me; somebody’s nose, a nice shadow in the parking lot, a fallen leaf from one of my plants, a shot from a porn movie, a scene from the book I happened to be reading or the movie I was watching the night before, really anything. These drawings pile up either on my drawing desk or find their way on the studio floor or - if they are sort of interesting - on the walls. Some of them remain on the walls or on the floor for quite a while, and most of them just go into either the trash bin or my drawers. As I make new drawings, the drawings surrounding me somehow, one by one, revealing some new stories. I just need to be alert when that happens. 

Becoming, Acrylic on birch panel, 20” x 24”, 2020

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

Yes, I think a group of pictures (drawings and etchings) I made during a residency in summer 2014 - 2015 before going to grad school. It was my first successful (obviously define success!) pictures dealing with narrative building. That particular group was also very personal and emotional, that also might be the reason I recall it as a pivotal work.

What Now?, Acrylic on birch panel, 13” x 12”, 2020

How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

I kind of wanted to make those works for a long time before I actually did. I guess I was afraid or something. Going to that residency and seeing how careless and courageous some of the other artists were with their work, perhaps pushed me and gave me the courage I needed to start making my own narratives.

Horsey, Etching and aquatint on paper, 15", x 17.5", 2014

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

That trust your intuition, do not over analyze, make what you really really want to/have to make, and do it in the best way you can at that moment.

Extras, Etching and Aquatint on paper, 16" x 13", 2014

What are you working on now?

Working on a series of five-seven paintings all sized around 24” x 20”. These are depicting – so far – different stages of a revolution/chaos/something big and destructive. I do not quite sure what is going on in them yet. But the actions and the characters in them interest me very much. Also, I am about to finish up a group of 15-20 small preparatory drawings to be used for a series of 10 small paintings, each narrating a different angle of a same story.

Harpsicord, Acrylic on birch panel, 12” x 16.5”, 2021

About the Artist

Based in Santa Ana, California

Morteza Khakshoor (b. 1984 Iran) lives and works in Southern California. He moved to the US in 2010 and received his BFA from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in 2015 and completed his MFA at The Ohio State University in 2018. Solo exhibitions include ‘Forty-One Drawings and Prints’, California State University (2018) and; ‘What Has Become Of Your Strength’, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA (2016). Group Exhibition include, ‘Strange Paradigm’, Young Space Views, (2021); ‘Humoral Theory’ (3-Person Exhibition), BEERS London, UK (2020); and ‘Art on Paper Fair’, The Tunnel, NYC (2019).

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