Nicky Nodjoumi, An Intelligent Painter In Exile

Nodjoumi’s work has been shown throughout the world and is a part of important international collections, including the British Museum, the National Museum of Cuba, the DePaul Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the soon to be opened Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi. Nodjoumi earned his bachelor’s degree in art from the Tehran University of Fine Arts in 1965 and in 1969, went to study English at The New School in New York. After successfully completing his MFA in the United States from the City College of New York Nicky Nodjoumi decided to go back to Tehran to teach art. His return to Iran eventually coincided with Iran’s Islamic revolution and university students protesting against the Pahlavi regime. Nodjoumi was eventually exiled from Iran in 1981 and as a result moved back to New York where he currently lives and works.

I first met Nodjoumi in 2016 at his studio in Brooklyn to discuss his art and to get to know him personally. The studio is a living working space full of large scale paintings lining the walls. He is warm and friendly, happy to share stories about his artistic life in Iran and New York.

His paintings are figurative, colourful, political, sarcastic and magical. They are rich with details and elements such as statues of dictators in harlequin clothing, people with animal heads and so on. Absorbing his paintings often feels like a circus in a metaphorical, magical place where you can go deeper.

Now, finally after two years since we first met, I caught up with Nodjoumi for a phone interview to discuss his new artistic projects and life.

Do you consider going back to Iran to exhibit your works there?

Yes, I would like to go to Iran, but traveling to Iran is not predictable. You may go in and may not come back. That’s why I don’t bother at the moment to risk my safety.

Where do you get the inspiration to create your artworks?

The inspiration? It’s very hard to answer…the subject of freedom; social justice is my main interest. I do lots of research and anything relating to this subject. I collect newspaper images of dictators, politicians and some other people.

Have you ever thought about using Iranian elements or characters in your paintings?

Iranian elements in my paintings…I was struggling for so long …to incorporate the Iranian elements in my paintings, but considering the subject matter I am interested in, using the decorative Iranian patterns are not relative to my works. So, I let it go many years ago and I don’t think about that anymore. I use some of the 19th century Iranian lithograph but not because it’s Iranian, It’s just that they are relative to the subject of my paintings.

Your gallery in New York, the Taymour Grahne Gallery, is now closed. Are you working with a new gallery in New York? Also, I would love to know more about your next exhibition.

I am still working with Taymour Grahne, even though the gallery is closed in New York but he is still active in London.

He is arranging a solo show in the Third Line Gallery in Dubai for me. We are also looking for a proper space to show in New York.

I am working on a project for a show in Dubai on April 22’nd, 2018 curated by Media Farzin. As well, there is another project in Santafe, early May 2018, in which I will give a lithography workshop and I am very interested and looking forward to be there for 10 days.


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