Born in Iran in 1962, Yari Ostovany moved to the United States at the age of 16 and pursued his studies in Art first at the University of Nevada – Reno and then at the San Francisco Art institute where he received his MFA in 1995. He has has exhibited extensively in the United States and internationally, and is the recipient of Sierra Arts Endowment Grant, Craig Sheppard Memorial Grant and Sierra Nevada Arts Foundation Grant. Recent solo exhibitions include Stanford Art Spaces at Stanford University, Vorres Gallery in San Francisco and Aria Gallery in Tehran, Iran.
FBB. Tell us your story Yari.
I was born and raised in Tehran and moved to the United States at the age of 16, shortly before the 1979 revolution in Iran. So you can say that my roots were firmly planted in the country of my birth while my branches and leaves thrived in the West. Art has always been an integral part of my life; not merely a vocation but a calling, a necessity for spiritual survival.
In those days art from Iran was not highly regarded in the west like it is today and thus there were no magic passes, myself and other Iranians of my generation who had left Iran had to struggle to prove ourselves as international artists.
I received my MFA in Painting from San Francisco Art Institute in 1995 and since then have been actively painting and exhibiting nationally and internationally. I also taught at the University of Nevada – Reno from 2005 to 2007.
FBB. Talk to us about your work and the message behind it.
My work is essentially about the poetics of human condition and about transcendence. Living in the space between two cultures, I have always been interested in investigating the nomadic in-between spaces: between emergence and disappearance, between the solid and the void. I have always been further interested in the mechanics of a symbiotic relationship between Persian and Western Art; the former being my innate orientation and the latter the tradition in which I have been trained. My interest lies not in a synthesis of styles but rather in an epistemological approach and in the tectonic interactions that give rise to the creation of peaks and troughs within a culture, allowing those visual vocabularies to be dismantled to their most bare and abstract cultural elements and sensibilities, using this as a point of departure to move more and more towards a terrain that lies in between the musical and the architectural.
FBB. What do you consider being your greatest achievement as an Iranian artist today.
That is for my audience to decide but I think having developed and matured a visual language that is fundamentally a synthesis of the Persian and the Western in my work is what pleases me most. When someone looking at my work says that the piece has a Persian/Eastern feel but they can’t quite put their finger on it, that is what I am after.
FBB. What are you doing to grow as an Iranian artist today?
To focus on my studio practice and digging deeper and deeper. My Iranian heritage is deeply imbedded in my soul and my psyche. In my practice I allow that sensibility to come forward, free from often overused and exhausted visual cliches, and as I mentioned earlier, intermingled with the sensibilities coming from the Western Art. Like anyone roving between two cultures, I am a hybrid being; I consider Carravagio and Rothko as much my artistic ancestors as I do the the tile makers of the Safavid era in Isfahan.
FBB. How would you classify your artistic style?
If I were to put a name on it, I would call it atmospheric abstraction.
FBB. What are you working on at the moment, and what sorts of projects are you interested in pursuing?
I work in series. Each series has its origin in a cognitive/emotional spark, an experience which is used as a point of departure. There are ongoing series such as Conference of the Birds which started about 20 years ago which I will continue to work on, as well as other series such as The Third Script, Chelleneshin, Fragments of poetry and Silence and Verses, which is a newer series.
I work on many pieces at a time and the different series expand at their own pace and because of that, change manifests itself slowly and over time in my work.
FBB. What inspires you?
I am inspired by all that I find around me but my work is particularly informed by music and poetry. Never in the way of illustrating an idea or a concept but allowing it to wash over me and seep through the filter of my being before finding it’s way into a visual form or translating into a visual phenomena. In this way I believe that a sense of alchemy needs to be present without which one’s response becomes only a surface reflection.
FBB. What message do you have to other Iranian artists who would like to have their works in permanent collections and shown in museums?
The most important thing is to be honest in your work. Your heritage and your culture will come through your work more poignantly if you don’t force it. Let it come from within you and if it does, it will have the power to touch people deeply. Don’t allow art market concerns to derail your work. The ‘market’ part of the art market will pass, the ‘art’ part will remain. Make sure the latter rules your life as an artist and not the former.
FBB. Any interesting upcoming shows and projects in the pipeline?
I am working on plans for my second solo exhibition in Tehran, a solo show in Los Angeles and other group and solo shows in the US and Europe.
FBB. Where can our audience purchase your work.
My work can be purchased through my website and also galleries (currently in California, Iran and France and soon in New York) and organisations that represent my work, most notably Fondation Behram-Bakhtiar in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Cote d’Azur, France.