Broken, steady rhythms
2002 artist award: Kamrooz Aram
By Maryam Ovissi
August 28, 2002
Kamrooz Aram has been selected as the 2002 Iranian Scholarship Award recipient
by the Evolving Perception's scholarship committee, comprised of Termeh Rassi, Sayeh
Behnam, Saghar Barzmehri and Aylene Fallah. See Kamrooz Aram's
Kamrooz Aram received his BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, in
May 2001 and is currently pursuing his MFA at Columbia University in New York. Kamrooz's
journey towards pursuing his creative talent full time is inspiring and surprising
This article will share with you what I learned about Kamrooz a few weeks ago
during our interview. Kamrooz is not only talented in the visual arts, but also musically.
In high school, he played drums with various bands.
He first began exploring his affinity for painting at the age of 17. He was inspired
by the cover of a National Geographic magazine portraying an image of a Sicilian
woman. He decided that he wanted to paint this striking portrait. He bought himself
acrylic paints and started painting.
"The first thing I immediately discovered was that paint was an expressive
substance itself. When I was painting this image of the women, I was not only interested
in the image I was working with, but also with the way I could express something
by dragging the paint, a certain color over another color, and having that transparency
quality to it. I developed an unexplainable sensitivity to it," Kamrooz said.
He later took the painting of the Sicilian woman to his art teacher, who was very
supportive and began immersing Kamrooz into art and painting. This one painting was
entered into different art high school competitions and placed very well among other
This acknowledgment of Kamrooz's talent was not only encouraging to the artist,
but also to his parents. Although, Kamrooz was a very active musician in high school,
he did not want to make music his profession -- he yearned to be a professional visual
artist. Although, painting is his chosen art form, Kamrooz still pursues his music
and often uses musical metaphors to explain his art.
"My art can be compared to the experience of a musician," he said. "When
I approach my canvas it's like doing a series of performances - there is an idea
of what you are working one and you go through the concrete steps to achieve your
final composition; however there is a space where you are free to improvise and explore,
there is a point when the self disappears. Although it does not happen every time,
it is what drives the creative spirit."
In his artist statement, Kamrooz wrote, "These paintings are representative
of an exploration of the parts (i.e., struggle, contradiction, transformation, longing,
etc.) as well as the search for the whole (i.e., the beautiful, complete, balanced
image). In these paintings, Islamic geometric patterns are combined with loosely
painted organic forms, at times deliberately breaking the steady rhythms, other times
quite randomly allowing the painting to paint itself."
"The idea of controlled chance is found in traditional Persian music, as
well as in American Jazz, in which the musician improvises over distinct melodic
systems and specific rhythmic patterns. Likewise, the paintings start with a grid,
which sometimes disappears completely, yet still affects the painting in its development,"
Today Kamrooz's works primarily explore Islamic and Persian patterns. He is able
to take a pattern, something that appears to be rigid in creation, and transform
it into works that bring about the spirituality that brought the patterns into existence,
while at the same time integrating him self among the controlled lines.
His work has not always connected to his Persian cultural heritage. The connection
between his art and culture began in 1998, primarily with his readings of poetry
by Molana Jelaladin Rumi, in both Farsi and English. In Persian art history, painting
began as an extension of the literature, primarily poetry, ironically, the same source
of inspiration for Kamrooz.
The artist's first interest for patterns originated with he visited a church designed
by Giotto in Italy. The floor of the cathedral had a pattern that intrigued Kamrooz
and thus began his exploration of patterns.
Giotto (14th century Italian) is known by many as the father of the modern painting,
who is most famous for the frescoes he painted in churches all over Italy. As an
artist who is just as interested in the influence of religious philosophy and spirituality
in the development of art, he is also a student of religion. He has spent the last
several years studying Islam and Sufism, and it's relatedness to geometric pattern
development in Iran and the East.
This sensitivity Kamrooz has developed for the importance
of religious belief is one that is of great importance to him. He values his belief
in Islamic spirituality and does not ignore the influence it has in his life and
in his journey as a creative being. Although, he does not consider himself belonging
to any specific sect of Islam, he does spend considerable time exploring Sufism.
In most of his works, Kamrooz explores Islamic patterns, primarily found in tile
work in Iran and throughout the East. His new work continues to explore the pattern,
but this time it is inspired by patterns found on Persian carpets. Just as there
is the Islamic philosophical influence on tile patterns, the same inspiration can
be found in Persian carpet design. Ultimately, all patterns created are meant to
be a journey to Paradise.
He takes a flat detail of the carpet design and creates depth to it, layering
the image and pattern, having it travel from a decorative design to an abstract stroke
to an impressionistic rendition.
"My most recent paintings draw compositional and color influences from Persian
rugs. Though the grid is usually invisible, as with frays of a rug, in the paintings,
it is left exposed in places, showing, the process and history of the painting's
development," Kamrooz said during our interview.
He is exploring the idea of trying to hold on to a tradition that needs to be
honored and preserved, something that is very related to all immigrants who come
to the U.S. Kamrooz's art began as a narrative exploration. Today, he is seeking
to express the inspiration and beauty found in religion or spiritualism and the necessity
of it to inspiration, creation and growth.
The idea of the pattern is perhaps a most perfect element to explore, because
it appears to be flat, decorative, controlled and perfect - devoid of meaning. Although,
his exploration of Islamic pattern design may travel from a dome to a carpet, the
main heartbeat of his work is to understand the drive of the human spirit to understand
and come closer to the perfection of the Creator through mathematically created patterns.
In reference to tradition and preservation of tradition, Kamrooz commented,
"I want to emphasize the struggle and contradiction one experiences in attempt
to preserve traditions while at the same time enjoying the nontraditional contemporary
Western culture that at times seems to contradict almost every aspect of the tradition.
In such an attempt one is almost inevitable left in a position that reeks of hypocrasy."
"This is where can understand the great Amercan poet Walt Whitman when he
says it's okay to contradict one's self, because we contain multitudes. I am interested
in this contradiction and how beauty can be found on both ends," He added.
Kamrooz is still in the early stage of his career and his exploration of a subject,
which has hundreds of years of thought behind it. I am certain we will be hearing
and seeing more from him in years to come.
Kamrooz Aram will have his first debut in the New York art scene this September
at the "Artist's Space" in Soho. His work will be part of a group show
entitled "Multitudes". To learn more about Evolving Perceptions and the
scholarship award please visit evolvingperceptions.com.
See Kamrooz Aram's paintings
Maryam Ovissi founded Evolving
Perceptions in 1996 as an annual exhibition for Iranian-American artists.
The organization has been under leadership of Saghar Barzmehri since 1998. It has
since evolved into not only an artist-run organization providing support for Iranian
and Iranian-American Artists, but also serving the community at large by organizing
trips and gatherings.