Welcome to the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge, where we showcase people whose embroidered creativity is fresh and new!
Ardeshir Tabrizi is an Iranian-American artist who processes his personal history and the legacy of his homeland through vibrant textile artworks.
I am an interdisciplinary artist working with materials including fabric, thread and paint. My current body of work attempts to better understand time and history, and my place within it. History has fascinated me since I was a child. It is something personal, yet shared, and like a compass, it provides context. It has helped me place myself amongst generations of people and events that have occurred prior to my existence and through its lens, I can better recognize who I am.
I often think about how I might otherwise speak, think, act, or live if I had a different history. That more or less captures the idea my work visually endeavours towards: that we are all amalgams of human experiences across time.
My embroidered works are research-based and intuition-heavy. I utilize cultural data from ancient icons, artefacts, miniatures, and incorporate personal and familial imagery.
Throughout the process, I allow my mind to play; to imagine what the outcome will be. I then transfer my vision into Photoshop and from there I can intentionally manipulate the fuller picture and produce digital files for the background embroidery. Those files are then used to create outlines for the overlay.
Once the background embroidery is complete, I embroider everything by hand; much like Persian Suzandozi. I landed on these methods over time, through intuition, study, and trial and error.
The embroidered works depend on modern digital tools and techniques, along with culturally traditional ones. This merging is something I try to lean into, whether I’m merging different cultures and peoples, or traditions and techniques.
I include my family in my paintings to pull in an extension of myself that simultaneously invokes other aspects of place and time.
Family photos help me scale up my conversation around history and allow for other considerations to be brought to the table. In this way, I want my family’s presence to express human interconnectedness. I want it to show that our influences are not geographically bound or located in one tradition.
My family could be your family, another person’s family, or simply a representation of family. When I merge these family photos with other elements – of imagery, patterns, and iconography not only from Iran, but the whole of other empires, countries, and cultures – I can slowly expand what defines people, objects, place and more.
As humans, all of human history informs who we are, even if we are born to or from one nation. Recognizing that is important to me.
For my latest work, I’ve expanded my research to include more references, to see history from an even more macro perspective. I’m further exploring the idea that it is never just one country informing itself: it is everything informing everything.
How did your technique evolve?
About six years ago I hit a wall in my work, and during that time I started to look around and conduct more in-depth research while taking a slight break from my practice.
I came across a video on Instagram of an older lady in Iran hand embroidering a textile; a textile that would be used in the home and that inspired me to experiment with hand embroidery which led me to incorporating machine embroidery into the work as well.
Where do you think your creativity is taking you?
I can’t say for certain but I try to follow my intuition and my interests, at the same time excluding everything that is unnecessary in the work. I hope that this takes me to a place where my work connects with people and engages audiences to inspire them and allow them to see the world from a new perspective or point of view. I always focus on growth and points of connectivity.
What other artists inspire you?
So many! Including Rosemarie Trockel, Tony Cragg, Ragnar Kjarttansson, Julie Mehretu, Jonathan Balock, Michael Armitage, Jenny Saville, Kara Walker, Peter Doig, Olafur Eliasson, Diedrick Brackens, Jordan Nasser, Noah Davis, Alexandre Diop, Lenz Geerk, Kour Pour, amongst others.
What is your favourite tool to use in your practice?
My new Ricoma 20 needle embroidery machine. I’m obsessed with it.
Can you share one creative tip with our readers?
Follow your intuition! But before you can trust your intuition you need to spend a large amount of time understanding your craft and understanding your material. Regularly working helps to keep your mental tools sharp which will be needed when the work beckons you.
Ardeshir’s work is bold and fascinating. His practice is embedded in a strong cultural tradition and one that is part of the national discourse. However Ardeshir, like Faig Ahmed, pulls the tradition into new and optimistic directions.
While the exploration of one’s personal position within a diaspora is indeed a weighty subject, Tabrizi infuses his work with colour, and character and builds layers of interest and storytelling in each piece. You get drawn into the work, and therefore you become privy to Ardeshir’s story and join him on a journey of self-discovery.
Whether it is a journey that has a destination remains to be seen – I suspect it will be a continued evolution of discovery – but the process is something that we can all enjoy.
Discover more about Ardeshir Tabrizi at his website and follow him on Instagram to see his latest realisations.