“Between the devil and the deep blue sea!” is a special work to me for different reasons. It was my first experience ever working with textile, and it was my first major artwork that I made and exhibited in Australia. I moved to Australia in 2011 and lived in Perth for 5 years before I moved to Melbourne in 2016. I didn’t have a chance to make many artworks when I was living in Perth and it was mainly because I needed to work full time in order to afford the living costs. Melbourne was totally different though. I moved to Melbourne after I was awarded Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) to study my PhD at RMIT University. This was a fantastic opportunity for me, not only because it helped me financially, but also because it gave me the opportunity to develop my practice and research experience. Being new in Australia and Melbourne though, I needed to familiarise myself with the art community in Australia and find ways that I can introduce myself and present my art. I knew that exhibiting in Australia will be challenging and I thought I can start with looking for opportunities like group shows and awards. The Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award was the very first one that I applied for and it was definitely a great starting point for me. It gave me the confidence to look for other opportunities and that my decision for working with the material and methods that I had no previous working experience with, was a right one. Between the devil and the deep blue sea! is about a dilemma. A dilemma where on one side there is all the memories of the past, home, family, and friends. Everything that was once a life and now is only a memory. There is the threat of death, terrorism and violence and there is no hope for a better future. On the other side, there is a better chance for staying alive, but there is nothing clear about the future. Where you go and what you will be called; A terrorist? Or someone that is there to take the jobs and money!? We are watching the news and seeing tragic accidents happening all over the world every day, but what makes us indifferent to the suffering of others was something that I became interested to learn more about it. From the beginning of my project, I was interested in discovering more about the notion of indifference and that came from my own position as an observer. I am an Iranian living in Australia. On the one hand, I am observing wars and conflicts in the Middle-East from a distance and on the other hand, from not much a distance! I am living in Australia with a great distance from the Middle-East in terms of the geographical distance and the differences in socio-political situations. On the other hand, and despite Iran’s current safe situation, there is no guarantee for a stable peace in the future. Being not here nor there, I am an observer who won’t be in peace in peaceful Australia, and can’t feel the depth of the pain for people living in war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq. The indifference phenomena can be studied from different disciplines, however, there can not be a simple and unique explanation for its cause. Regardless of different explanations for the causes of the indifference, what I am most interested in is to explore the ways I can show the “indifference” itself. For this, I seek to focus on my simple interpretation of the phenomena, which in my mind is “seeing tragedy, not tragic.” In other words, whether the indifference is caused by information overload, or distance from the sufferer for example, people don’t feel the pain and can’t understand the conditions others in pain are experiencing. Based on this explanation, the focus of my artworks is to depict and highlight the contradiction between the pain and the indifference. In my art practice, I often use colourful and attractive materials in combination with a visual language that reference to the aftermath of tragic events of wars, to provide a symbolic representation of indifference in the form of an artwork. This is my artistic approach in explaining the notion of “indifference”, that can illustrate my ideas around “seeing tragedy, not tragic”. to give voice to my own concerns and position as an Iranian artist, I am interested in utilising visual elements from traditional arts of Persia and the Middle-East. In selecting rugs and fabrics that I use in my artworks, the weaving quality is not my concern. Moving beyond this, I am looking for features which express and underpin concepts such as antiquity, resistance, simplicity, and peace which sit in stark contrast to the terrorising and militant image of Middle Eastern people portrayed by the mainstream media. Nowruz (Persian New Year) 21 March marks the Persian New Year and the first day of spring in Iranian calendar. It’s the time of the year when all Iranians and many other Farsi speaking nationalities (Afghans, Tajiks, etc.) celebrate together. My wife and I are planning a trip to Iran for the new year holidays and it would be our first time to celebrate the new year with family and friends in Iran since 2011. It is believed that Nowruz has a long history of around 3,000 years and is rooted in Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion that predates both Christianity and Islam. Every year Iranians celebrate this very special event at different times and it’s because the exact time of the new year depends on the exact calculation of when the length of the day and the night are equal. There are many things about the Persian new year to be excited about and sitting around the Haft-Seen table (7sin) with family is with no doubt the most exciting one. Haft-Seen is a set of seven symbolic elements beginning with ‘S’ in Farsi that Iranians arrange them together to decorate a table that family sit around and celebrate the beginning of the new year. The most common items found in Haft-seen decoration are: Sabzeh: Wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish, Samanu: Sweet pudding made from wheat germ, Senjed: Dried Persian olive. Seer: Garlic Seeb: Apple Somāq: Sumac Serkeh: Vinegar Sekkeh: Coin that symbolise health, wealth, abundance, etc.
Wangaratta Art Gallery Collection, Acquired with the assistance of Robert Salzer Foundation.
A used Persian Rug that has had a motif of two heads and an explosion hand-stitched onto it.
mohsen meysami, textile, rug