In the visually saturated world that we live in, artist Ashkan Honarvar has found a refuge in collage. His work is a meticulous mishmash of art, photography, illustration and pornography, all carefully arranged to form an ordered chaos. Ashkan will be the first to admit that sometimes his work is not easy to look at but his art isn’t for you or me, it’s a form of therapy.
The artist challenges ideas of power, sex and death in an effort to deal with the unanswered questions in life and while the result may be macabre, Ashkan encourages the viewer to look for beauty in his work. In an interview with METAL, we uncover the artist’s creative process and how no book or magazine is safe around his scissors.
Hi Ashkan, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your artistic background?
I’m a collage artist currently living in Trondheim, Norway. I have studied graphic design and illustration before rolling into fine arts in The Netherlands. For almost a decade now I have been doing collage art and at the moment I’m represented by two galleries in the USA: one in NY and one in LA.
How did you discover collage and what is it about this medium that allows you to express yourself?
I discovered collage through my girlfriend. I noticed very early that I liked this medium, the results are instant and rewarding. I believe it’s also a contemporary medium to work with in these times where we are surrounded by visual overload.
Who or what has influenced you artistically?
Imperfections and human nature are the main source of inspiration for me in my work but also film makers, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alejandro Jodorwski and artists, Matthew Barney, Jeffrey Silverthorne, Antoine Dare. Two writers that had major influence on my work are Jens Bjørneboe and Ernest Becker.
Your work deals with themes of power, religion, fetish, wealth and corruption just to name a few. What message are you trying to convey through your art?
Not per se messages but more answers. My work is very personal, and I have always used it to find "answers". Sometimes I feel more like a scientist than an artist.
Would you say that art-making is a therapeutic process for you? –maybe a way of dealing with all of the unanswered questions in life?
Certainly! Almost every project I have made started with a question that I didn’t have the answer to. And by working on a project, in the process you start to see everything from different angles that you haven’t thought about before. Sometimes a clear answer will emerge and sometimes a sense of feeling. You can’t put it into words, it’s more abstract.
It’s undeniable that your work is striking, often to the point of being grotesque. I’m interested to know, what sort of feedback do you receive generally?
It’s mixed but mostly positive. The viewer usually gets confused as to whether they think the picture is beautiful or grotesque. Personally, I have always been fascinated by this juxtaposition.
In previous interviews you have mentioned using art as a means of finding beauty in the macabre or the gruesome. Have you always been interested in this?
Yes, as mentioned before I think it’s interesting to examine what this beauty is in the macabre or in general.
The images in your work vary from medical book diagrams to nature scenes to pornography. How do you go about finding this content? I imagine you scouring old bookshops and garage sales…
Flea markets, Ebay, antique book shops and friends and family. And pretty much every printed material I can find around me.
In the past you have collaborated with other artists and photographers, how does the process compare to when you are working alone?
The big difference here is to find a balance between my work and the photographer. It should be 50/50, so the collage elements shouldn’t cover the whole picture, it should work in harmony together. I really enjoy collaboration from time to time. It’s a nice way to do something different once in a while.
Finally, can you tell us a bit about any up-coming projects?
Expect larger format works. The majority of my collages are not bigger than A3 size paper but these newer ones are around 100cm x 75 cm and still handmade. And beside that I have also started with a new project based on Ernest Becker´s book The Denial of Death. That book is breathtakingly inspiring. I recommend it to everyone.