Fondation Behnam Bakhtiar interview with Alireza Astaneh



1. What is your story Alireza? 

It was an afternoon when nine years old. I was in my uncle’s house. He let me touch his calligraphy stuff; the ink and the Ghalam (the special instruments for traditional persian calligraphy). I wrote one or two persian letters - “they are written perfect” I said to myself. “They all are written wrong!” my uncle said. Then he taught me how I should hold the Ghalam and thought me to write some letters. In the continue of this story my mother was convinced to send me to calligraphy classes and of course there was a more important reason for this decision and it was Imam Ali’s quote about nice handwriting: “Nice handwriting is such wealth for the poor, beauty for the rich and perfection for the wise.”

2. Discuss you art practice process.

As mentioned, I began learning calligraphy when I was nine years old and finished the learning process when fifteen. I was mad about the forms of Persian letters but I was not interested in Ghalam and ink. Therefore, I was attracted by the forgotten styles of old Iranian calligraphy - Ghatta’ee and Nail calligraphy. With time Nail calligraphy became more serious for me. It is a very difficult onerous technique, which extremely hurts the backbone; in a way that I have been forced to have two neck surgeries until now. As I always prefer to do something strong and rare, the Nail calligraphy became the basis of all my later works, and its influence continues until now. My entire obsession in construction of letters, the lump and dents of my current work and their minimal moods are rooted into Nail calligraphy. In the given technique, the calligrapher creates raised colourless letters by the force of the nails on a piece of soft paper instead of using Ghalam and ink; the raised space become visible when the light is put on from the right angle. I really like and support the role of Persian calligraphy in the industry today, specially its construction process. I have the same feeling now and you can realize it through my metal installations such as the “Verbal Cages” and “Dirak” series.

3. How long did it take you to master your skills?

I have been working on calligraphy for about 23 years.

4. What are you doing to grow as an Iranian artist today?

Non stop work in my studio.

5. Who are your favorite contemporary artists?

There are a lot of contemporary artists whom i like and was influenced by and still am in some cases, however, i do not feel a special interest to any of them.

6. Favorite musician and film?

I am not interested in movies. I prefer music. In a certain time i tend to listen to all my favorite tracks until i can not hear them anymore.


7. What is your life motto?

Be a classic! Specially in art.

8. What inspires you?

When the Mongol armies attacked Baghdad, Yaqut al-Musta’simi took refuge in a mosque minaret and began to practice calligraphy. Some minutes later, one of his students found him. “How can you sit here when a river of blood is gushing through Baghdad?!” the student asked. "I have written a Kaph (one of Arabic/Persian letters) transcended from the whole world" Yaqut answered.

9. What do you love most about art?

The nature of constructing, in an industrial manner. Creating something worthy and valuable from material in low value.

10. What projects are you working on presently?

There are two project. One which includes installations made from iron, steel and bronze named ‘Dirak’, and the other ‘Days in Jail’ which is a series on canvas.

11. Where can our audience buy your work?

- Homa art gallery in Tehran





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