Invoking artist Ashkan Honarvar’s dark side

The Iranian-born collage creative talks violence, human nature and curiosity as his work goes on display in New York

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Ashkan Honarvar, From Lilith, 2014
From Lilith, 2014Courtesy of Ashkan Honarvar

“I have always been drawn to violence,” says Ashkan Honarvar, an artist who finds himself more drawn to the ‘dark side’ than not. “I’m always curious about it, trying to understand it and study it.” But the Iranian-born, Dutch-bred artist’s work isn’t all doom and gloom, instead, his handmade collages are full of sweet macabre, where, for Faces magazine – which the artist says “started it” – he gouged out models eyeballs in favour of pink frosting to the downright provocative. “It wasn’t like I always try to find a darker theme or subject for a project. I think I just wanted to know more – and still do – about human nature,” says Honarvar, adding; “Curiosity drew me to the 'dark side'.” Currently on show at New York’s Kasher|Potamkin's Everything is All White exhibition, alongside artists like Dana Bechert, Ghyslain Bertholon and Anthony Bianco, we delve deeper into Honarvrar’s psyche below.

Could you tell us about the process you take when creating your work?

Ashkan Honarvar: It works differently every time. Mostly a single found image will trigger a whole project. You have an idea where you’re going but you have created room to be surprised. I think you need to find a perfect balance between control and chance while creating art. I usually work very fast and there is always this “gut” feeling – you just feel it when a collage is done. When two pieces of paper collide and work together in a perfect harmony.

What attracted you to the medium of collage?

Ashkan Honarvar: I used to paint and drew a lot, but I always got frustrated because I couldn’t create fully what I had in mind. The results were usually not satisfying. And back in art school, where I met my fiancée, she introduced me to the collage technique, and, there, I just started to work with the medium more.

I also tried making collages digitally. It worked, but at the end the results didn’t had the same vibe as a handmade one. When you’re making a digital collage you just have too much freedom. This doesn’t work for me. I needed restrictions. Almost everything I have made for the last eight years is handmade.

You were born in Iran and grew up in the Netherlands, how has your upbringing and subsequent move influenced you?

Ashkan Honarvar: That would be the part of feeling completely home somewhere. I think I never have experienced a nationalistic feeling towards the country I have lived in – and I don’t see this as a negative experience at all. It gives me a more global feeling as if I am not part of a small or local group, but just part of the human species.  

Your work is self-described as 'dealing with the darker side of the human mind', what drew you to the 'dark side' as such – to document it?

Ashkan Honarvar: By trying to understand human nature I’m hoping to understand myself better in this life. And after so long, I’m still curious. This subject is very complex and is deeply rooted in all of us. In a way I also see all more projects connected together, they cover different subject but at the end they are part of the same story that will probably continue until the day I die.

Where is your favourite place to find 'beauty'?

Ashkan Honarvar: From an aesthetic point, I see beauty in violence and the extreme that I try to enhance in my work. Subconsciously, I think I’m doing this to just to be able to believe that everything is ok and there is hope.

Everything is All White is currently on show at Kasher|Potamkin, New York, until 21 February, 2015. For more information, click here

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