Homa Arkani

painter / photographer

Islamic Republic of Iran / Belgium

Finding their identity is one major problem of young women in the Middle East and especially in a country like Iran. They often live in a dichotomy between the traditional values of a strictly patriarchal, religious society and the Western modernity spread by satellite TV with primarily US-American stars as ideals of beauty. This conflict between everyday reality and the world of fantasy, the clash between millennia-old culture and modern capitalist consumerism is unmistakably symbolised in the works of painter/photographer Homa Arkani from Tehran.

Homa Arkani

painter / photographer

Islamic Republic of Iran / Belgium

Homa Arkani
Homa Arkani | © Homa Arkani (private)

Homa Arkani was born on March 1st, 1983 in the capital of Iran. Her first name comes from Persian mythology and means 'fairy godmother'. She began painting at the age of five, studied at the Tehran Art and Architecture University and graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design.

Arkani‘s modern art has gone through various phases and developed over the decades. In the beginning it was exclusively women from the new generation in Iran that she captured on canvas with precise, sharp brushstrokes. Then men also began to play a role in the subjects symbolising induality, the clash of borders and the desire for freedom. "Being critical", the painter said in an interview, "is for me the mission of my art." In her home country the works about social and cultural problems in society could only be shown in private exhibitions, but not in public, because Homa Arkani wanted to stay herself without censoring. Outside of Iran her pop art already has been exhibited in Belgium, Germany, France, Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Poland and the USA.

After having lived in Tehran for a long time, the admirer of Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso studied in Belgium for two years as a „Master of painting at Kask school of arts“ resides there now. Being heavily inspired by the verses of Rumi she reached another stage of artistic expression. The thoughts of this Persian poet of the Middle Ages dwell on self-understanding as well as joyfull living – perspectives that were incorporated into her colorful oil paintings from then on. The main topic remains the infiltration of the Western culture into the Eastern society still, but the surrealistic realisation provides more room for imagination and even includes a spiritual dimension these days.


Interview September 2015

Medieval poet inspires contemporary painter: from realism to surrealism

"Intuition comes from my infinite, non-physical energetic being. When I face something good which causes exultance on me, the cheerleaders in my spirit come out and on the other hand, when I meet something bad or cause some bad effects in my mind, my whole spirit experiences a huge lamentation. All of them lead me to a temporary white silence which guides my creativity to create!“

The cultivation of intuitive calmness requires unfoldment of the inner life. When developed sufficiently, intuition brings immediate comprehension of truth. You can have this marvelous realization. It happens to me when I’m totally calm in the state of mind. It’s just like a spark which fills every pore of my body and I feel it like an exultance.

Therefore: Before starting to paint I usually meditate for 15 minutes to reach the emptiness of mind. When we understand the deepest, void nature of the mind, then we can work with the conventional nature of the mind to get rid of the disturbing side and build up the liberating side. If one hasn’t done enough purification, and so on, there will be just too many obscurations, too many mental blocks to be able to actually see the nature of the mind.

Intuition for me is not consciously. It all starts like magic. A sudden gush of inspiration, a hymn, a whisper, an idea comes to mind. Conscious of unconsciousness. Phantoms of spirits or whatever other names they are called. Premonitions and visions. Automatisms and paranoiac visages. Sometimes it comes to me when I’m reading or walking. In other times like empty vessels. Then I begin to create. So when you get inspirations unconsciously they wouldn’t be thoughtful. Thinking is a conscious process, otherwise it wouldn‘t be thinking. Inspiration is a mixed process, the combination of the whisper from inner side and a duplication of a reality which can tolerate the inner hymn. That’s why any person can have his or hers own inspiration of a constant reality.

All creative processes start in my imagination. I can use it to create my unique heaven on earth or create hell. I mean, we are creating the way we see our surrounding. And for me, the best way which leads to inspiration is criticism. I love to focus on every small leakage of culture and society. They are always my main sources of inspiration.

I’m not aware about what is coming to my hands to paint. I just let them make the whole shape because of the feelings. When I create, there is a deep satisfaction in manifesting that creation. In becoming the creator through a clear intention and surrender to an experience of my own creation I am fulfilling my inherent nature. I am being who I am. I am being true to myself. Excercising my power as a creative being. That truth provides the profound calmness of being. The calmness arises whenever my creative energy is free to dissipate in the experience I desire to have. But before arising the creativity there are just severity and captivation.

In my point of view, listening to poems is best for making an artwork. This is the sweet spot for getting ideas. Music or ambient sounds at a moderate volume is the optimal level for creating, whereas extreme quietness sharpens our focus, making it hard for us to think creatively.

During creativity-time I prefer to keep the lights down low. But for working on details in paintings, I should have good lightning to see every detail.

I have never faced the situation of having a deadline but no idea, because I don’t call it „Art“ when the creation is getting to such a process. But an idea without intuition is like a baby who never has a mother.  

In my work I’m trying and insisting to stay loyal to the elements of form as a unit. For me this is the only base and the ground which the meaning of painting arise from. It is also a reflection of this situation we are living in. Therefore the mission of my art is to be critical and an objection to current situations.

Because I know my audience, I know how to create exultance on their souls. So when an idea comes out, I put myself in a place of the audience and just see it. And if it was effective enough, I check if I can put it on canvas subtly. If I pass this step too, I get to the conclusion that the idea is good.

In the first step the idea should be flexible. For more explanation, it should have the capacity of expansion and adaption. There is a possibility for an artist to change the idea during the process of painting and the idea should be more enough strong to survive during this metamorphsis period.

I take notes of my ideas as a matter of course. There were a lot of times like during the night that I had a dream and I just woke up to write the idea down. Sometimes, however, I only get around to it in the morning. I archive ideas, but never go back to check them. The reason for this is simple: I believe that all past ideas are effectively dead because they have not been put on canvas. And archiving them is just a sign for achieving not to use them.

The main potential of every bright idea is to be flexible for expanding into a big one! And it‘s not a common characteristic of each idea. The deep routed and bright one can magically grow and become immortal.

It depends on the particular idea how long I pursue it. Some of the ideas are really mature enough. They even don’t change during the process of painting. And when they come like spark to my mind, there is no hesitation for working on them. I put them on the canvas without wasting time. But some ideas need to kneading to become ready for ‚cooking‘. This process might take one week to a month.

How I translate theory into practice depends on the topic I have chosen to work on. If I choose a social, cultural subject, the process of putting an idea onto a canvas starts with some photography and capturing the figures. Buf if the theme relates to some inner matters, I usually start with some sketches to find the best physical shape of the idea. I see the whole process totally – like a child is born.

I have different ways of awakening my creativity, but I don’t force it. I think it can grow in a calm and released mind; by pushing it, you just get tired. The best way to have a great result is to prepare a good condition for its growth.

I stimulate my own creativity by watching lots of pictures from everywhere. By listening to some inspiring songs or music. I love walking and most of my ideas were sparked when I was running. I can change every little social topic into a surreal grotesque one for painting.

I have experienced that sometimes discipline and structured time-management is good for creativity, but sometimes it is the idleness. The latter means that you have a real free mind to prepare a ceremony of creativity. Every condition can lead an artist to a different creativity.

When it comes to the question of whether the wisdom of age or the freshness of youth is conducive to creativity, I believe in the latter. I think the more you are far away from others thoughts and ways, the more you can be yourself. And when you find yourself in your art, you are more rewardable and strenuous.

The result of the artwork is very important. The feeling which shines on every single touch of it. But on the other hand we can not eliminate the physical constitution because it can lead the addressee to get close to the artist. Sadness could trepan to creativity. For me it’s the pressure - the extreme amount of sadness, happiness, love, limitation, censorship...!“

My Favorite Work

"Since the identity crisis of the new generation of Iranian women was and is one of my intellectual concerns, I address this issue in most of my paintings. The generation who is swinging in-between the limits and rules of everyday reality and fantasy. In this free and joyful swing, the boundaries of beauty and obscenity have gradually changed to grotesque figures. As Stuart Hall said: These people are in the process of being others. They see themselves as “other” inferior of Westerners (in our case to our society). Their identity is made through the mirror of Western media. Quite opposite to their appearance and in the contrary, their thinking and action is based on what was traditional. This feeling of inferiority, this otherness comes from the obsession with hormonal activity and sexual repression.
To understand these behaviours, I became curious in their relationships to know how they act, what are their interests and their desires. Vanity, excess, artifice and extravagance - these are the first words that come to mind. Since extremes of exaggeration have become the character of this generation, I’ve displayed it in a grotesque atmosphere which was exhibited in a painting-exhibition titled ‘Share me’ which lasted almost two years.”

Share Me
My favorite work: Share Me

You like(d) what’s offered here? Please show your appreciation by donating to one of the recommended charities.

Donate now