Interview: Ashkan Honarvar

1. Please, introduce yourself; tell us a little bit about you.

My name is Ashkan Honarvar, born in Shiraz/Iran and grew up in The Netherlands and recently moved to Norway to live with my girlfriend Sylvia Stølan and I have a cat named Nacho that always sneaks into my studio and jumps on my unfinished collages and messes them up.

2. Recent, current or future projects you are involved in that you would like to share with us?

I will be presenting some collages from 2013 at a group show in Chicago next week entitled Medley and I also will be showing new work at the next NY Pulse art fair (represented by Steven Kasher gallery). Really looking forward for the last one at NY pulse because my work will hang among peoples like Daido Moriyamia and Miles Aldridge.

3. What kind of things does influence your work?

Imperfections play a big role in my work. I’m always looking to find beauty in places you don’t expect them to be. I think subconsciously I’m trying to find beauty/aesthetics in the extremes, just to be able to believe that everything is ok and there is hope. I usually use images of the human body from medical books that I order online or in bookshops.

This fascination with the imperfection is sometimes linked to images of the human body as explained above but also the not visible ‘human condition’. It always has fascinated me to understand why people behave the way they do under extreme circumstances. I find and study these extreme moments in history books.

4. How is your normal process of collaging? (idea or commission, where do you get your materials or find your images, which is your cutting technique, best way you have found to paste, where do you work and how, and very important: what do you do with your scraps)

Its really different each time, it can be a single image that triggers a whole new project. Or I might see a movie or read a book. Sometimes I have an idea first then I go and look for images and books to cut up and other times is the way around. I have found a great collage book but I need to connect it to a story/meaning. I believe I always need to have a reason for making collages. I need to tell stories. Especially with some graphic images I use, I need to handle them with respect and care so I always force myself to give it a meaning and by doing this you respect the images and understand better why you use them.

I also try not to over use certain images. So after cutting a book for making collages I will try not to use the same book for other projects. In that way all the projects have different kind of feeling and aesthetics. By doing this you also force your self to be more creative and you don’t repeat yourself.  As if you like making puzzles but you don’t want to use the same pieces all over again. You want new pieces each time you have finished a puzzle.

About my materials that I use in my projects; I find them everywhere! I see every printed-paper around me as a potential collage material. Even the most boring book from the nineties about brick construction in England can have beautiful parts you can use in your collages. Collage art for me consist of 30% looking around and buying books and other printed material and 70% on making collages itself.

For cutting the collages I always use an X-Acto knife (X245) with a 360 degrees rotating head part. In that way I can easily cut-out curved parts. But its also very sharp and thin so you can easily cut-out the smallest parts if needed.

After few years experimenting with collage art I have created a new and easy way to paste complex collages. Some of my works consist of more than 60 layers on top of each other, but also going through the paper. I usually glue the whole thing after I’m happy with the total composition.  So instead of removing and gluing every individual part separately (and by doing this you risk that the compositions will change). You leave everything as it is. You get a random not useable page from a book. Cut this up in little strokes of paper (1x3cm approximately) put some glue on the tip of the paper stroke and slowly glue the parts of the collage (gluing with one hand using the stroke and the other hand holding the collage parts on its place) And then throw away this stroke and move to the next part with a new stroke of paper. At first it feels a bit slow but trust me you get faster eventually and your collages are cleaner and you have more control on the outcome.

I have a nice big studio in our house. Its down in the cellar with very small windows. Its very quiet and I don’t have any distraction beside my cat Nacho.

5. Which is your latest discovery in the collage world? What advice can you give to a collage beginner?

That would be the works of Matthew Stone. He is actually a photographer but his sculptural cubes are more linked to collage art. It’s really interesting and inspiring to see that collage can be interpreted so many ways.

And as advice for collage beginners, I believe if someone spends more than 10000 hours on something (for example making collages) then they get pretty good at it! So just make collages! And also some practical tips don’t forget to use archival glue and tape (acid free). Otherwise your collages will show yellow and brown spot after few years (foxing) the acid from a regular glue and transparent plastic tape is deadly for the collages (unless you like the acidic effect of coarse) I use a regular Archival glue (Henzo) and as tape I use the brand Filmoplast.

One final tip; don’t get emotionally attached to ANY book. We as collage artist are at the top of the food chain (in the book world) and the books are for us to cut and to use!

6. What do say your friends/family about your collage work? And, what do you do when you are not working on art?

For a long time my family thought I was Weird but they have learned to live with it now. Especially my mom had some difficulties at first, but now she is my biggest fan.

Besides making collages, I’m a real art house/underground movie geek. The weirder the better. And since moving to Norway I enjoy the nature so much.

7. Would you like to ask anything to John Baldessari? Shoot.

Would you like to join the The Weird Show? You would fit in perfectly!

8. What for did you get into this WEIRD stuff?

I think fellow Weird artist here will confirm; you don’t get into this Weird stuff! We are just Weird from the start.