In the lead up to Reflection: Contemporary Portrait Exhibition at Surface Gallery, Nathan T. Dean has been interviewing the artists about their practice and the wider artistic environment today. All our artists have been asked the same questions on portraiture, selfie culture, art, and more, to get an insight into how an international array of artists - all coming together under one set form of portraiture - can explore, tackle, and discuss the form in such varied ways.
And we continue, with Milad Karamooz.
This article has been part reworded by Nathan T. Dean, due to English being Milad Karamooz second language. He has had permission from the artist to correct any spelling and punctuation without losing any meaning.
For people who are just discovering your pieces, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your artistic practice, and your work to date?
I am Milad Karamooz a self-taught Iranian photographer. After spending 35 years of my life in my country I discover that my country is the land of paradoxes. Every side of an Iranians life are full of paradoxes. Our personal life, social life, religious life, political life: every side that you can imagine. That’s why I'm so interested to show who people really are. And let them face to their paradoxes. And force them to think about it. One of these paradoxes are the ways that people choose their life. I am the one who says we do not really choose. Actually we don’t have any choices. Because we are exactly choosing the way that our traditional society is dictated to us. Sometimes our roles are totally in contradiction to our human nature. But, harmfully, that teaches us perfectly that they are our targets and we should be happy to catch the roles. In this collection “ HALL OF MIRRORS” I tried to ask that: are they the best roles that we can choose? Did we choose them or we are chosen before? Aren’t we the prisoners of the roles that societies dictated to us?
In our current turbulent world, how do you think portraiture fits into the current artistic and cultural climate?
'Human' is the most important subject in the world at this time. Portraits are helping us to get to know each other, to get close to each other and feel and find our communa; senses. If we can fill our pains, happiness, and our needs, then we will find the way of peace.
As a follow up? Do you find social media helps or hinders your practice?
I am living in a country that is so hard for the people to go out of the country. Because of many reasons. Economical problems, political problems, visa issues sanction limitations and so many difficulties that are not peoples fault. It’s a big issue for the artist who wants to send their voices to the world. So social media is maybe the one and only window of freedom for us. The window that is connecting us to the world.
Which artists inspire your work, and do you feel they too are portrait artists? Do you even regard yourself as a portrait artist?
Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, Iranian writer and director Bahram Byzayie and Pier Paolo Pasolini and Pedro Almodovar are my inspiring artists. I have learned from them that great artists are the artists who do not surrender to their circumstances. We shouldn’t let nobody prison our mind. And if you ask me, yes, I feel they are portrait artists. Actually I never haven’t chosen to be a portrait artist. But now when I’m looking to myself and my works, yes, I guess I am.
How does it feel being a part of an exhibition with such a range of international artists?
It feels really great. Especially for people like me who are in the countries that there is not any support for the independent artists, it feels like “we are not alone”
Hardest question, and one I've asked everyone I've interviewed. What do you think the future of art is? What comes next? And if you had infinite resources and time, what would you add to that future art?
The meaning of art could be different in different cultures and different circumstances. For me, art is a weapon to fight for change. The biggest challenge about art in my mind is the censorship pressures.
Without a doubt, technology will have a decisive role in the future of art. I am an optimist about that because the only thing that helps us to show ourselves to the world is technology. With development of technology this freedom will grow.