Parastoo Ahovan is from Kermanshah, a Kurdish city in western Iran. While I was interviewing her on zoom, she explained that she thought of herself as a multidisciplinary artist and while she started off as a sculptor, her work is now more expansive: she now does sculpture, installation work, mixed media, video, painting, and performance.
Upbringing and Education
Parastoo has always been interested in art. She grew up amongst a family of artists, and she remembers drawing with her brother from a young age. Her parents were very supportive of artistic professions, and she went on to study fine arts and sculpture for her bachelor’s degree at the university of Tehran. From there, she participated in multiple art fairs in places like Dubai, London and Venice In 2011. She enrolled at Pratt Institute in New York, and then got a full scholarship at Boston University, which she graduated from in 2014.
When she was still studying, Parastoo’s focus was sculpture. But after attending Boston University and being surrounded by mostly painters, she was pushed out of her comfort zone and started to explore other art types. Her final year project at Boston University was based on a canvas that she turned into a performance art piece, and she became intrigued by multidimensional viewer experiences.
From there, and after spending multiple years away from her home country, Parastoo started working with Persian rugs – which have become her signature art piece. When she works with rugs, she does not change their size or design, instead focussing on adding her own touch: she usually plays with the texture to add a touch of modernity. In doing so, she is connecting history with present and future.
Parastoo explained to me that all of her portraits were self- portrait: everything she uses, and all her creative imagination is a direct representation of herself and her culture. She also draws from western art for some of her work: the Mona Lisa was a great source of inspiration for some of her portraits.
The prince and his Abigails/ Acrylic on Canvas/66×48 inches
The Bird and I/ Video Painting/ 30×30 inches/https://vimeo.com/440707023
When asked about an art piece she was particularly proud of, Parastoo mentioned her painting entitled War and Peace. She said it was a piece dedicated to the Kurdish women and heroes of Kobani.
“I wanted to honour these women. For the past two, three years they have been fighting against ISIS, and we were all so proud of them for that” (Parastoo Ahovan).
War and Peace/30 x 30 inches, Canvas & Acrylic, 2020.
Parastoo’s work is often related to history and politics. For her, it is difficult to make art without looking at these things. She created a book called “The Book of History” which was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2015. This art piece is a 1000-page book with no text. As the pages turn, the pages become more and more damaged, and daggers start to push through the pages.
“I related that book with my life history. The destruction, the war. There is no text, just some daggers – a symbol of destruction, how it existed in the past and how it is still going on in the world”.
Parastoo is still working with Persian rugs and plans to continue doing so in the future. She wants to explore the connection between painting and video some more and she is starting a project where she plans to animate the Lascaux cave drawings – once again bringing back the theme of connecting past to present.
Parastoo Ahovan is a great artist, with a strong message and a beautiful style. To find out more about her work, head over to her website: https://parastooahovan.com/