Alireza Karimi Moghaddam was born in Iran in 1975, Vincent Van Gogh in Netherland in 1853, they met each other after over a hundred years: how? In colours, art and poetry. The Iranian artist speaks, about his inspiration and the huge influence of Vincent Van Gogh is his work.
You are a cartoonist and illustrator, on your Instagram page you have other illustrations, why and when did the passion for Van Gogh appear?
Yes, I am a cartoonist. Basically, my personal interest is in "cartoon". Drawing a cartoon is a basic need just like eating and sleeping for me. A physiological need that has become a natural part of my life. I convey my thoughts to my audience through cartoons as simple, as smile.
In recent years (I mean the last two years) I have moved a bit towards illustration. Of course, I confess that I am not an illustrator and I am gaining experience right now. However, I am a human being who likes to communicate with others through images and I believe in this kind of communication. The image does not know any boundaries, borders, language and anyone at any age, gender, and social status can understand the language of the image.
As a teenager, I became interested in Van Gogh paintings. My father was painting and we had books about the great painters of the world. It was from there that I gradually became acquainted with the works of the great painters and particularly Van Gogh, and spent all my adolescence with them. I always see a certain simplicity and purity in Van Gogh's works. In my opinion, these features could not be found in any artist. This is the main reason for my interest in the artworks of this artist.
You are from Iran, a country rich in art, painting, why Van Gogh? What calls your attention to the work of the Dutch artist who moved to France?
In my opinion, art has no borders. Aesthetics and the creation of beauty go beyond these conventional boundaries. Yes, I came from a land rich in art and literature. I have been there since I was a child. I grew up between art and poetry. My mind is familiar with the magnificent works of art and literature.
In Van Gogh's paintings, I see the fluency, softness, and delicacy of Eastern culture and poetry. For me, his artworks are like a poem of nature! And this is the connection between my hometown and Van Gogh's art. What made me fall in love with Van Gogh is his lifestyle. In the last years of his life, he became one of the geniuses of art. He was poor in his life, but after his death, he brought a lot of wealth to his family and joy for human beings. He was unknown throughout his life. But now he has become the most famous painter in the world. I have always wondered why humans do not care about each other as long as they live, and we understand their importance after their death?
It may remind me of my interest and seriousness in portraying Van Gogh. I believe that life is beautiful and we are travellers who should enjoy this trip the most and create beautiful images for the future and next generations. I am an observer of the most beautiful artworks of a genius artist, called Van Gogh, through the eyes of Eastern culture.
You now live in Lisbon, what motivated you to move to Portugal?
I love traveling. My best teacher is to travel. I travelled to different places. On my last trip to Lisbon, by the invitation of a good friend, I fell in love with the sun, warmth, kindness, and rich culture of this city and decided to stay in this city for a while and gain experience. The Portuguese people are culturally very similar to the Iranians, and that made my decision to stay in Portugal easier. I started the Van Gogh project in Iran, but I created my best works in Lisbon. My migration to Lisbon is very similar to Van Gogh's migration from Paris to Arles.
What most strikes you about the painter's work?
The love and perseverance that Van Gogh had in creating his masterpieces. Many did not take him seriously during his life and even made fun of him. But that did not stop him from making his decision and from creating those Artistic masterpieces. It's essential to listen to your soul and believe what you are doing. Time will show many things! I think Van Gogh was in love, and that love led to his artistic masterpieces being born in poverty and loneliness. I always see suffering and passion simultaneously in Van Gogh's paintings.
Do you reproduce certain moments in the artist's life that did not exist, for example, his meeting with the Mexican artist Frida Khalo, what is the relationship that you see between them?
As you know, the two artists were not living at the same time, and Frida was born many years after Van Gogh. It just comes from my imagination. In my opinion, Frida has been and is an influential person. She is an artist who has experienced many sufferings in her life, just like Van Gogh. Since Van Gogh was almost without an emotional partner during his life, I introduced Frida to Van Gogh's life to make my stories more interesting. Of course, I believe that if these two artists were living at the same time, my story would probably become a reality! What I am doing is to travel in time, which is part of the dynamism of life but at the same time ties us to a specific period. We can break the rules and fly in time to create a new imaginary world in which everything could happen with no limitation! Even the meet of two great artists from different centuries!
What is your creative process like, what software do you use and how do the painter's colours and features arrive?
I first stare at Van Gogh's paintings and see him in his own paintings. I think what would he do if he were in that space? Different thoughts pass through my mind and in the end, I depict the most fantasy one. The letters that Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo help me a lot. After finding the final idea, I often do my work with a light pen and using relevant software (Photoshop software). In performing all the works, I try to stay faithful to the original work in painting, lighting, and technique of performing the Artwork.
Is it a way to keep the painter alive?
For sure Van Gogh does not need my efforts to keep his name alive! He is very well known globally. I will do my best to speak to people with the art of cartoons. Van Gogh himself is a reference and source of interpretation of illustration. So it's better to say that I am trying to keep alive his message and his perspective on life. People are not the same and that's why our slogan on our website is: "Van Gogh for all"! I will do my best to speak to people with the art of cartoons. I believe, my words are in fact the words that Van Gogh wanted people to hear. But probably with a slightly different language and for a wider group of audiences due to the nature of cartoons. But I also try to respect him and his art. I consider it vs my duty.
Your Van Gogh smiles, cries, contemplates, your Van Gogh puts emotions out more than the real one in his works; do you try to reproduce his possible feelings in your creations?
Cartoon is the art of exaggeration and magnification. I have a duty to show the points that are instructive to the audience in the most beautiful way. I want to tell my audience: “Contrary to popular belief, he was not crazy. He was in love and did not think like the people of his time. While his colleagues were having fun in the cafes of Paris, he went to the meadows and plains. Morning and night. By creating a lasting frame for his audience, he wanted to share the passion of life with them. But people at the time called him crazy. He was in love”. I want to explain this to those who are not very familiar with Van Gogh. In my works, I am not just talking about his work but narrating his life to inspiring people!
Do you think depression and loneliness were the main inspiration of the artist?
Loneliness maybe, but never depression. How can I believe the creator of Sunflowers* and the Night Star is depressed? Van Gogh did not just think like the rest of his contemporaries. And this led to the other people denying him, except his brother (Theo Van Gogh), and he was left alone. This loneliness led him to the foothills and landscapes of France and the masterpieces of the painting world were created there. Maybe we could claim that people were depressed those days by ignoring him! They could not see so many beauties! Van Gogh was ahead of his time as an avant-garde artist. Nobody knows that. So for sure, he was alone!