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03/29/2011 10:54 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2011

The Surrealistic Book Paintings of Alireza Darvish

Born in Rasht, Iran in 1968, graphic designer, illustrator, and animator Alireza Darvish attended the Fine Arts Institute in Teheran, 1984-88, and thereafter became one of Iran's foremost illustrators. He returned to the Fine Arts Institute as a painting and drawing teacher but in 1995 emigrated to Germany where he lived until 2003. Moving to Barcelona in 2003, he lived there for three years, building his reputation as an illustrator for various literary journals in Spain. He moved to Prague in late 2005 but soon returned to Germany where he now lives and works.
In the early 2000s, he undertook a series of paintings, now numbering over forty, with books as thematic and metaphoric points of departure. Both playful and serious, light and dark, pensive and provocative, these paintings draw us into the world of books and readers within the subconscious in the surreal world.
Books as bridges across the unknown; as building blocks of the Pyramids; readers as fish in a desert with books as the water of life, their only chance to maintain themselves and survive, one book to the next.
Don Quxiote, the Man of La Mancha tilting at windmills and defending against lost causes becomes,  in Darvish's imagination, the defender of the book defying anyone to knock down the citadels of volumes that have towered over all but now need his services. He has become El Caballero de Libros,  a scrawny King Kong on skyscraper with a fly-swatter keeping the evil forces at bay.

The book as a solitary life-raft adrift and apart from the clamor of modern life...

...and as a dangerous burden we must bear on a tightrope.
Finally, readers languorously floating and swimming in books in an otherwise arid world.
Alireza Darvish's Battle against Censorship
Now living in Cologne, Germany, with his wife, Carmen, a historian of photography, Iranian-born  artist Alireza Darvish, who has used books as metaphors in his art, is a political refugee.

SJG: What inspired you to integrate books into your art?

AD: The reason why I started working on this series was because of censorship and its effects on people's life (specially writers and visual artists) in Iran.

It was around 20 years ago (when I was 23) that I started working on this topic. I myself had to throw my books about prohibited topics/authors to the closest river to avoid getting in trouble when I was only 15 years old. Some years later, I started working as an illustrator in a literature journal in Tehran, and there I came in contact again with this problem. So the first years that I worked on this topic I was under the influence of a particular political reaction bounded to my homeland. 
SJG: What happened?
AD: Needless to say, I got in trouble for my work in Iran.
In 1995 I decided to move to Germany and received official status as politic refugee three years later. This time, a second phase in my work starts: I finally managed to go out of the political reality of Iran and my work became universal, the human being and her/his relation to the world of "books" (metaphors for any problem that might concern me) what shapes my work: human rights, love, women rights, fear, solitude, human relations, literature, etc...
These drawings have also entered  my animated film work, many of them becoming alive through animation of the same drawing ("The Foot Steps of Water" 2006, and "What If Spring Does Not Come?" 2007).
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We thank Alireza Darvish for permission to reproduce his imagery here on Booktryst, and for allowing us into his world.
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Full gallery of Alireza Darvish's book paintings here. __________

Stephen J. Gertz cross-posts from Booktryst.comwww.booktryst.com.

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