On a WhatsApp video call, internationally celebrated artist Bahram Hajou showed me around his spacious studio, flooded with light on a bright morning in Munster in Germany. Hundreds of completed paintings, some with writing on the back, and blank stretched canvas waiting for the artists brush, face the wall.
A single unfinished painting faces the artist on the wall, near a large table full of colors and brushes. I could almost smell the fresh paints in the studio, classical music played loud, and the artist dressed in a white gown stained with colors wrapped a brown scarf around his neck for warmth.
He smoked his cigarette, his eyes shining through the screen. Hajou spoke English with a German accent, resorting to Arabic when he could only express an idea or emotion in his native tongue.
R.M. You work seems to show people shrouded in the fog and uncertainty of tomorrow. Do they express a mistrust of the world, or the emotional drama of being human?
B.H. It is an emotional drama. I was married to a woman, she left me after 23 years, this was a big trauma and has affected me massively. I am an immigrant; I came to Europe a long time ago on my own. I had no money, no one to help me, I passed through a very difficult time and this is reflected by the loneliness of the figures in my paintings.
R.M. Their eyes – what are they looking at?
B.H. The eyes are looking at you, gazing directly at the viewer, they follow you wherever you move. They are asking you to interact. The viewer becomes part of my work of art.
R.M. Besides the artist, a work of art is also made by the recipient, reader, viewer or listener. It is always a dialogue between artist and audience. On some of your works I notice you’ve painted over previous images. Is it your intention to delete or cancel out characters? Or perhaps free the painting from previous experiences?
B.H. I paint on previous figures to erase their influence on the moment. Only one or two figures remain in my paintings, talking with body language, which is better than words.
R.M. The body language of the figures creates an intense and mysterious atmosphere. How do you relate to the male and female bodies?
B.H. Body language is very important for me. Many times words are not enough or they can be misleading, but body posture conveys real emotions and is always pure and authentic.
R.M. Your landscape paintings are disturbing and powerful, with an incredible expression of darkness and light, and an uproar of energy. I feel they hint at horizons and perspectives that can lead each of us beyond the miseries of life, and the often too miserable state of humankind as a whole. Paintings such as Antenna to Heaven leave a space to the viewer for imagination. Is it an invitation to us to slow down?
B.H. I was inspired by the clouds, I often watch the clouds, they form different shapes which leaves you to imagine different forms. In my other landscape artworks, I put only two trees, a minimalist approach, its quiet, peaceful and pleasant.
R.M. How can people find out more about your work?
B.H. Last year my work was included in a major catalogue by Franz-Hitze-Haus Gallery in Münster, and this year one by the Pryzmet Gallery in Krakow with an essay by Professor Stanislaw Tobisz. There is also a recent beautiful publication called Kunstzene Münster published by Tecklenborg, with me and my work on the cover. The authors are two of Germany’s most important art critics, Ulrich Karst and Ilse Wecker.