Thursday, 2 June 2011

LSD Magazine Interviews Iranian Street Artists - ICY & SOT

If you peer past the stereotypes, endless propaganda on both sides of the divide and the dark theocratic veil of Iran, it won’t be long before you touch both the not so silent underground and the extraordinarily nuanced pathos of Icy and Sot’s art. Infusing the international visual language of global street art with a deeply personal and targeted meaning, their spectacular range of work takes on the political, the individual and the universal as haunting flashes of innocence sweep through bold statements of identity, freedom and social justice. Whether it be sperbly layered stencils rendering an almost photographic sense of fleeting memory, silent screams of humanity, intensely political canvases beckoning a new dawn of cultural freedom or quick cheeky pastes in Tehran’s streets, they have truly made the medium their own and made the stencil and the can sing their own biting refrain. They were open enough and brave enough to speak to LSD, although we did keep our direct political questions to a minimum. If its a tale of resistance and the triumph of the spirit you’re after - the art does all the talking you need.

Tell us a little about Tabriz and the creative scene there 

Its a city in the north-west of Iran, and kinda boring - there really isn’t much going on here to be honest. It does have really beautiful countryside and landscapes surrounding it, but all the creativity is mostly focused on the traditional art fields

How did you first develop an interest in art 

It started with our career in skateboarding, especially Sot’s. We used to watch skate videos and play skate games all the time, and we saw graffiti and stencils on the walls which initially sparked our interest. We then started with smallthings like stickers and small amateur stencils, and we began spraying them and posting them up on our spots and gathering places.

How did being brothers and working together influence the development of your art 

We were and are best friends, and when we started, there were very few people (most of whom were in our circle of friends) who knew what graffiti, stencil and the whole street culture was. Being brothers helped us a lot as we did everything together – drinking, hanging out, stencilling – everything and overall we just understood each other.

When did you first begin to cut stencils and how differently did you have to approach that from canvas pieces 

A few years ago when we began thinking about our first exhibition and we started sophisticating our works around 2008.

Is your art seen as a political statement in Iran 

Well it is, even our non-political works are considered offensive to the government and it’s also illegal like everywhere else except for the glaring fact that it’s much more dangerous for us here as the accusations potentially levelled at you go way beyond vandalism and criminal damage, so the risks are far greater

How do the public respond to your work and how does that differ with the reaction of the authorities 

Graffiti and stencil has a long way to go before it becomes a part of our culture, and people realise what it really is. because of the lack of exposure here in this field, people aren’t familiar enough with these sorts of things., maybe if a pedestrian passes by a graffiti or stencil they might not know what it is or they might not have any interest in it, or maybe in some cases they might even wipe it off. For an example Icy once did a wheatpaste, went away for a few minutes just for it to dry off and when he came back a guy was tearing it off. But despite all of this it does now and again impact and influence some people on very rare occasions. 

LSD Magazine Issue 7

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