Canadian-Iranian artist Fariba Baghi believes that “art is an expression that comes from the soul of an artist.” Painting ethereal abstracts that explore the connections between the human body and the delicate elements of nature, she paints primarily in earthy tones using unique textures and techniques.
Baghi’s art is very closely related to her personal life experiences – evolving over time and matching up with her own ideologies. “I believe artistic expression comes in stages and each stage takes a different mood, method, and medium to fully complete itself,” she explains.
You said that you were born “In the land of art”. Can you talk a little bit about where you are from and why do you consider Persia the land of art?
I was born in Tehran, Iran. The history of this city goes back thousands of years. There is a historical narrative present within the architecture, from the use of colors made from natural resources to the carvings in the door panels.
Growing up in a place where one can find artistic inspirations in every nook and cranny broadens the vision and stimulates the imagination of an artist. Cinema, photography, architecture and poetry are all very strongly engraved in the Iranian culture and play an important role in how people live their life in the country.
Sounds like an amazing place! Do you go back and visit? Do you still find it as artistically strong as you did when you were growing up?
I do, and every time I go I find new visions and places that stimulate my imagination. I love the natural, organic, and family-oriented feel of the countryside and small villages. The old mosaics and the natural colors of Persia underline the differences between the East and the West and continue to feed my creativity.
You have lived through a devastating event of your home burning down in which you lost all of you possessions, including your paintings. Following the fire, your artistic style has undergone a dramatic change. What happened?
The event forced a couple of major changes in my artistic process and technique.
Before the fire, I used store-purchased paints and spent a lot of time trying to age the artwork just the right way and achieve the authentic craquelure. After the fire, as I walked among the still smoking remains, I saw the burned objects and their cracking. It wasn’t beautiful per se, but it was fascinating to me. At that moment, something’s changed. I couldn’t stop thinking about the burned, cracked things. I meditated and contemplated about them for a long time and what came to me was the unstoppable urge to use natural, organic materials and pigments.
For the past 6 years now, I’ve been using natural materials that painters have used for hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years. Wine, coffee, various vegetables, and spices all make their way into my artwork. I discovered that I don’t have to worry about the aging any longer. Natural paints age, evolve and crack as they dry, and you can distinctly see that process as the years go by.
Another thing that changed was my attention to detail in an artwork. Now, I approach my paintings holistically, concentrating on them as a whole as opposed to paying attention to small details.
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Did you start moving towards abstraction a little bit as well?
Yes. As you know, I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation for over 25 years now and this practice has definitely helped me get through some tough times by bringing me closer to myself and helping me become one with the outside world and nature. After the fire, I went through a period of sadness. I meditated a lot and started to notice that my imagination has evolved and, as a result, my paintings have evolved as well. I did a series of paintings of the universe and they were hanging at my house when my friend and neighbor, a scientist, stopped by. He saw the artworks and became fascinated because my vision of the universe was so much different. It wasn’t influenced by the images I saw before, it was something that came straight out of my mind and my imagination.
Color evidently plays a major role in your artwork. How has your palette developed over the years?
I have gone from using mostly acrylic paints to using a more natural palette with neutral colors that come from nature. For example, I often experiment with different natural sources of color like coffee, turmeric powder, wine, etc. My palette has definitely evolved to become earthy, more connected with nature. As of today, I use a mixture of store-purchased and natural paint that I make myself. I’d say that 70% of my paints are natural.
Tell us a little bit about your artistic process. How do you develop a particular work?
I don’t have a particular process; it really depends on my mood on that particular day. I try to paint every day and the process begins with my own emotions and how I choose to express myself on the canvas. I use my bedroom as my studio and play the music loud throughout the process.
Do you have a favorite piece in your collection? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite piece is number 6 because I felt a growth in my work when I started it. I felt I had advanced in my use of color and technique. This too is made with natural colors that I created myself.
What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
I believe that art is an expression that comes from the soul of an artist. I don’t particularly think that it must dictate what the viewer should take away from the piece. Whenever I took my kids the museum, I would tell them to look at each art piece and express how it made them feel without any particular preconception. Similarly, I would like my viewers to look at the pieces without any pre-conceived judgments and be aware of any change it might make them feel. They can then further look into the gap between what I had in my head versus what they felt, and contemplate.
Watch Fariba talk about her art during her 2016 exhibition at Agora Gallery.
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