Having graduated from Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti, Tehran-born artist Alireza Mohtashami currently has several of his contemporary and conceptual artworks on display in the speakeasy basement of La Ménagère, with the show titled A Big Big Bright Sun intriguingly immersed within the venue’s décor. Launched on the occasion of Florence Art Week on September 22, the works appear largely black and white in appearance but, when activated using a QR code on your phone, become layered with images drawn by the artist when he was between two and five years old, allowing visitors to delve into Mohtashami’s creative world, both past and present.
How did you come to Florence and tell us about your journey so far.
I’m Persian. I was born in Tehran in 1993 and I came to Rome when I was 11 to study the piano and Italy remained in my heart. I started to study Italian, also because you use Italian a lot in music. I met an art teacher who has now become an important artist based in Düsseldorf. She saw my work and advised me to study art. I made the crazy decision to move to Florence, even though I’d never been here before. My father thought I was joking when I told him! I studied Visual Arts and New Expressive Languages at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze after finishing high school where I focused on mathematics, physics, programming and web design. Even though the works on display here at La Ménagère are paintings, in some way they influence the environment and create a sort of installation.
Tell us about the works on display.
This series was created in 2021. It varies from much of my other work and is very minimal. All of my pieces are created for a reason, whether large or small. This series is called Un sole grande grande luminoso (A Big Big Bright Sun), which was inspired by when I came across a mother who asked her child to “paint a large, very bright yellow sun in a blue sky”. When I was small, I loved to be spoken to in this tone, and so I pretended to be young and used what I had available. Kids have coloured pencils, I had charcoal, paper, my camera and iPad: the things I use everyday. I started to create my version of the sun. I’m colour blind and so I see the sun as a black circle. The artworks are made from plexiglass and can be lit from behind, like a lightbox.
In your works there’s often a focus on the philosophy of life, psychology and sensitivity to current issues. Can you tell us about that aspect of your work?
I frequently speak about women, LGBTQIA+ and global warming through my work, but never directly. I want to prompt a different kind of reflection that is less immediate and instead invokes true contemplation. In terms of human rights, I have always tried to play my small part. At the moment, Iran is suffering, but I hope for respect for women and the LGBTQIA+ community. What is important is peace.
Find out more about Alireza Mohtashami’s works on his website.