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Persian graffiti
The art of Amir Fallah

June 6, 2001
The Iranian

Last January jurors Seyed Alavi, Zara Houshmand, Fariba Bogzaran and Ben Kashkooli came together to select a recipient for the 2001 Iranian Artist Scholarship Award ($1000). Young Iranian artists from all over the U.S. sent in strong submissions. The jurors had a challenging, yet enjoyable time together, discussing the submissions. They took into consideration the quality, the artist statement and the artist's relationship with his/her media and work.

They selected, Amir Fallah, a 21-year-old artist currently enrolled at Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. Fallah's works blend and juxtapose his Iranian culture/heritage with his American, merging together inspiration from Iranian calligraphy, graffiti and abstract expressionism. Click on image

Amir's first significant experience in the arts began at junior high school. "The first time I really took art seriously was in 8th grade, when I started taking art classes at my junior high. There was a competition for a small mural at the school," He said. He won and was encouraged to continue pursuing his passion. He was able to continue taking art classes both at school and in the summer through his high school.

Outside of the classroom, he also experimented and taught himself how to paint using acrylics and oils. His family was very supportive of his interest in art. Although his mother wished that he would become a doctor (the Iranian Dream!), once they saw his interest and sincere commitment to art, they were very supportive and encouraging. Click on image

Some of the most formative and important periods in artists' lives are the first few years when they are encouraged to pursue their interest and talent in art; and also, are provided with opportunities for growth. What would have happened if Amir's junior high school and high school did not have an art program? And what if his parents underestimated the importance of art in his life?

During my interview with Amir, I sensed the stabilizing force that his early education and family support played in his life. Although, he, perhaps, is not aware of how important the encouragement was, it has absolutely grounded him and provided him a sense of security in his individual being. Click on image

During his second year in college, he began to explore his Iranian identity in his work for the first time. He has been working in the current style for about two years. Upon first glance, his paintings resemble graffiti one may find on city walls. When one tries to read the text on his paintings, one realizes that he is writing in a foreign language, a true language or his own? He uses the English alphabet to write Persian words, creating a language that he can relate to and understand.

Like many Iranian children who have grown up in the United States, Amir does not write or read Persian, but speaks it. He still wants to relate to his mother tongue and through the development of his own language he is able to do so. Click on image

His statements are light hearted but poignant in their innocence of exploring "Iranianess". Some pieces depict short statements while others have stories intertwined. The following excerpt is taken from his statement:

Modern graffiti and Islamic calligraphy have many similarities. Both forms of art deal primarily with the manipulation and stylization of text. They both are intricate and do not rely on scenery or realistic renderings of figures. Islamic calligraphy deals with the use of repetition in patterns while graffiti artists use the repetition of their nickname or "tag" for recognition by other artists.

In both forms, the oral tradition of teaching the art is also practiced. A master calligrapher hands down his knowledge of calligraphy to an apprentice and a skilled graffiti artist, hands down his knowledge in letterform, style and technique to young inexperienced writers also known as "toys". Both forms of art rely on the use of architecture as a compositional factor. These and other similarities between these two styles.

Amir Fallah has not had the opportunity to show his work to a lot of Iranians, but the mostly American audiences are intrigued as they try to understand what is going on in the text, images and composition. Usually after Amir's brief explanation, one sees the push-and-pull energy between the "American" and "Iranian" elements of his work. Click on image

Currently, Amir is enrolled in a unique independent study program at his college. Basically, for an entire semester a student receives the opportunity to have a studio in Tribeca, New York, living and working the artist's dream. Art critics and visitors from the New York art scene come to Amir's studio to critique and discuss his works with him (kudos to his school for providing such an enriching experience).

He explained that he is working on several pieces, some small, some large, some two dimensional and some three dimensional. Most impressive of all is a 30-foot mural he described in his studio that is about the clash between his Iranian and American identities and culture. Click on image

For many, perhaps the theme of cultural identity is blasé and has been overworked, but the creative process is one of the most poetic forms of exploration. When we are given the opportunity to share a young person's perspective about the difficulty of balancing two very different cultures, it allows us as human beings, friends and parents to be more understanding.

Amir was very pleased to receive the Iranian Artist Scholarship Award. The Iranian community, at least in his area (Northern Virginia/Washington DC), is not very encouraging toward young and emerging Iranians, especially artists, he said. "I was very surprised to hear of this scholarship for young Iranians. It actually sounded kind of weird. But this is great and definitely needed!" Click on image

The Iranian Artist Scholarship was developed by an anonymous Iranian artist who wanted to plant a seed of inspiration for young and emerging Iranian artists in the United States. Gallery Ovissi and Evolving Perceptions have adopted this scholarship and plan to offer it every year, hopefully raising more and more money to give several scholarships out a year in various categories.

The scholarship was also fortunate to have a group of supporters donate to this fund. Special Thanks to Dr. Ehsan Yarshater, Simin Meykadeh, Bella and Nersi Ramazan-Nia, Seyed Alavi, Afarin Rahmanifar, Susan Akbarpour, Marvin Collins -- all of whom generously donated to this scholarship. A special acknowledgment to Nina Sharif who committed time and talent to creating the poster announcement for the scholarship and served as the award's graphic designer.

If you would like to receive information or make a contribution to the 2002 Iranian Artist Scholarship please contact Maryam Ovissi at 510-601-5284 or via email at galleryovissi@hotmail.com . Check www.GalleryOvissi.com for application information as well.

Iranian.com will feature Amir Fallah's work in more detail... soon!

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