Portraiture by Amir Nejad

Thu 01 Jun 2017 to Sun 25 Jun 2017

Opening reception 16th June 6pm.

One day, when on his way to his grandmother's house in Iran, 13-year-old schoolboy Amir Nejad stopped to peer into an artist's studio and gallery. Life would never be the same for him again.

Amir says: “I was fascinated to see an elderly artist painting at his easel. I was captivated and intrigued. That's when my love of art began." Each day Amir would tell his parents he was going to his grandmother's but secretly, he spent the all the time he could watching and learning from the artist at his work. “The artist told me eventually that I should go to art school but my father wanted me to be a businessman. He said that no one cared about art in Iran."

Through his teens Amir secretly saved up his birthday money and on his 16th birthday bought artist paints, brushes and canvas. He started painting in secret in the basement in his house. "I wasn't able to keep my painting hidden from my parents for long and when they found out what I was doing, they took all my materials from me and told me to study. You won't make any money by painting, they said."

Amir began his compulsory national service when he was 18. Stationed in Tehran, Amir spent all his leave from the Iranian army unofficially attending art classes. Eventually though, the college found out that he wasn't a student and banned him from the college. Despite these setbacks, there was no stopping Amir from following his dreams and after national service he finally got to share an art studio with a friend whilst working as a shoe maker to earn his money.

Amir and his friend eventually decided to host an exhibition of their work but Iranian government officials shut the exhibition down and Amir's life changed forever. Amir was forced to leave Iran and, after a long and hazardous journey fist settled in London before moving to his present home In Swansea where he studied study graphic design at Swansea Metropolitan University.

For many years after his bad experience in Iran, Amir hadn't felt able to paint. He eventually rediscovered his love of art after his daughter asked him to teach her to paint. Amir said: “I had put painting behind me because I had bad memories from Iran but one day when I was with my daughter, she said Daddy, mum told me you were an artist, can you teach me to make art?”. That was the spur to pick up brush and my colours and started teaching my daughter. I began painting and painting again and discover a passion for portrait painting."

Amir says: "I chose human beings as my subject, but not as a traditional portrait painter. I rarely draw a portrait of somebody that I know or work on portrait commissions. I don't want to depict a specific person nor create a likeness, but capture my vision and my idea of the person's presence and inner self. They are more like self portraits to me, adding my state of mind and thoughts, similar to what a detailed writer might employ in their analysis of an individual.

Photos are an important part of my artistic approach, but they are only an intermediate step. Before I even start taking photos for a new work, I have a firm idea of the artworks appearance as the later painting or drawing and the photos are taken to be beneficial for that aim. As they are only used as an intermediate step, I plan them and use their information in a different way as a photographer would.

I started drawing from life and imagination at an early age. This enables me to think beyond the flat photo surface and translate the information of a photo with a more sculptural approach. By translating a photo into a drawing or painting, there is a shift of the effect on the viewer. When such an artwork is viewed in flesh, there is always the extra layer that kind of opens the image and lets the viewer enter it."

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