ArteEast is pleased to present an interview with artist Oliver-Bijan Daryoush as part of our Artist Spotlight series.
Oliver-Bijan Daryoush (b. 1997, New York, NY) is a British-Iranian artist based between London, Paris, and Los Angeles. Daryoush received his BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in London. Recent exhibitions include: Kapp Kapp NY, Going Postal Gallery, New York & London, and Guts Gallery London.
AE: Tell us about your work in general and the main themes you return to in your practice?
OBD: Drawing started when I was very young, I wasn’t talking properly for the first few years, so drawing became an extension of how I communicated. Since then, I have been drawing, drawing, and drawing. I am extremely curious about life; the main themes of my work or message are to celebrate the human experience, and the relationship between the human mind, body, and soul. I am fascinated with the brain, how it operates during sleep, how dreams redefine and hijack stories, characters, places into new reprocessed, re-envisioned landscapes where the definitions and meanings are seen through a new window.
Thinking back to my memories growing up, I was surrounded by Iranian mythology represented in Persian carpets in all the rooms of my childhood home. Each represented some sort of portal into a walled garden or a hunting scene. I feel this was a fundamental entry point into a world in which I could escape. I then began to build my own universe that has the best smell in the world.
AE: Following your recent graduation from London’s Central Saint Martins in 2020, you completed a year-long Erasmus program at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. What was your experience in these programs; what were some of the advantages and challenges you faced?
OBD: Central Saint Martins can be a great place to study. It is more about finding your balance and learning what nutrients of knowledge you need. Everyone is different. I did feel an imbalance between my creative needs and the curriculum at Central Saint Martins. I felt the fine art course was designed to be more focused on nurturing a type of artist that was almost exclusively conceptual, rather than teaching us to be able to understand how materials work or helping us find our material language.
École des Beaux-Arts was a school that was focused on nurturing one’s art-making language, which was what I felt I was missing in London, so it was an extremely beneficial experience. Between my 2nd and 3rd year I moved to Paris to study. I felt like Erasmus gave me what I needed to go back to Central Saint Martins and graduate; it was like a vitamin that I was deficient in had entered my bloodstream. Everything has its ways of working out in the end.
AE: Can you talk about the role of Farid ud-Din Attar’s literary epic, The Conference of the Birds within your work? Additionally, how have you used dreams as points of reference to create your imagery?
OBD: The Conference of the Birds by Attar has been a piece of Iranian literature that has stimulated me greatly.
It starts with all the birds of the world embarking on a journey in search of their sovereign/leader, named the Simurgh. Each of these birds represents the different errors or faults in humanity. They travel over seven valleys to reach the final destination, where they have been told the Simurgh dwells. As they arrived at the final valley where the Simurgh lies, only 30 birds out of the birds of the world have survived. They discover that there was no physical Simurgh, but rather, they begin to see that collectively they are the sovereign they have been longing for. In Persian “Si” is the number 30 and “Murgh” translates to bird–a play on the literal meaning and the reality of the birds who survived their spiritual journey.
This had a major effect on me; it put a lot of things into a new gear and perspective. Whatever we are looking for in life is ultimately already within us. The ‘sovereign’ or ‘leader’ is within us all and we already are what we dream about.
In terms of the relationship between daydreams and REM dreams in my work, for me drawing can act like a dream journal or portal, since my dreams tend to be very intense. If there is a scenario from my dreams that I can recall in the morning, I immediately sketch it out and create a whole world that pours onto paper. In terms of daydreaming, it is a way of releasing energy for me, since I see it at times as a force of manifestation. There’s something special about putting thoughts you envision into something physical.
AE: The primary medium for your works on paper are colored pencils. When did you begin using this medium and how does it help convey the messages and emotions within your work?
OBD: At first, drawing was a form of communication, but my technique of using pencils took serious shape while studying at school. I went to a Waldorf Steiner school as a child for 10 years, which was a big blessing; it gave me the space and pace to develop creatively. We were given beeswax crayons and Lyra pencils at first and this was when I was introduced to good quality materials.
Now my pencils are different and age resistant. The method is still the same. It reminds me of back to where it all started, like a time travel machine. I think the fact that it is so instant means I can release a feeling directly in the moment.
AE: Can you discuss your recent solo show, The Conference of Dreams, at New York’s Kapp Kapp gallery?
OBD: The connection between me, Daniel, and Sammy is very organic, I am forever grateful that they put their trust in me and gave me a platform to show my work. When they asked me to produce work for a show, I had just moved to California. I was very inspired by the landscape; I was taking long hikes in the mountains and canyons, running along Venice beach, listening to hummingbirds and watching sunsets. This nourished my color palettes. After the first month I was alone a lot of the time, so I spent it making, making, and making. It was a very fluid process and in retrospect it was the perfect time and scenario to create. Everything went very smoothly.
The show title, The Conference of Dreams, was a reference to Attar’s piece of literature The Conference of the Birds. For so many reasons that piece of literature holds meaning for me, being your leader in the game of life. I love life and I wanted this body of work to celebrate life itself while intertwining it with Persian mythology. I wanted to also reflect how daydreams/dreams of REM re-operate storytelling into new narratives.
The show was accompanied by a soundtrack that I composed.
It was my first time going back to New York since I left with my family at the age of 5, so it was a very special time–a full 360 circle. My thanks are once again due to Daniel and Sammy.
AE: What and who are some of your major creative influences, and why?
OBD: Old Iranian literature, and mythological poetry. They are so rich in visuals, symbolism, and context and using such sources bridges a connection to heritage and history for me that is important. I think other major creative influences to me are life experiences, and living in the moment of now. I am also inspired by the circle of life, nature, and landscapes.
They are all important for me to create my universe.
AE: Do you have any shows, residencies or new projects coming up in 2022?
OBD: I am very grateful for this year. I have a few things in the oven at the moment. I am currently working on a soundscape project as well as my next body of work, which I’m looking forward to sharing in 2022.
OLIVER-BIJAN DARYOUSH ONLINE: