Hailing from Luristan, Iran, Hojat Amani (b.1978) is best known for his fantastical photo montages that juxtapose images of people, angle wings, and more traditional Iranian motifs and designs.
Drawing inspiration from history, the universality of angels as a symbol and religious pilgrimages, Amani’s aesthetically futuristic interpretation of angels are wrought with vivacious personality, yet also leave room for subtle contemplation and self-reflection on morality and the universal language that symbols, even when embodied by humans, have.
A rising star in the contemporary art scene, a work of Amani’s recently sold at the Spring Bonham’s Contemporary Photography sale in Dubai.
Having trained at the University of Art in Esfahan for his BA and the University of Art in Tehran for his MA, here Amani opens up about his Angel series with Persianesque as he is gearing up for a summer exhibition in Europe.
PEM: You’ve become well-known for your beautiful “Angel” series, which appear to be multi-media work. Could you explain a little about the medium and your artistic process that goes into creating these enthralling images that juxtapose photo with colorful motifs and designs?
HA: concerning the development of this process, I must say that these creatures have existed in my paintings for a long time and they are also memories of the past left behind by pilgrims who traveled to such places as Qom and Mashhad, where they would stand in front of a painted picture, and take these photos.
This attracted my attention and I realized how people who stood before a painted scene carried an immense belief in their hearts. They showed this belief in their inner most selves. It is these types of photos taken on pilgrimages that inspired me.
I was drawn to people’s gestures and poses. Thus the two joined each other and wed the concept of angels and became installations. I drew two wings of angels inspired by the book called “Meraj” where the prophet ascends to heaven. Then I asked people to stand before it and to imagine that the wings belonged to themselves and to present themselves without any judgements, thus, [the models] tested themselves in front of the wings.
Their reaction(s) was varied; some laughed, some danced, some were serious, some shook their shoulders innocently and some were respectful, while others were confused.
I photographed all these stages and taped their voices. Then, I would choose that picture that seemed most earnest to me and prepare it for printing. In fact, some succeeded and others didn’t.
In the second series of angel wings I used waste material to make the wings. This is what I wanted: to mix with past culture. It might seem simple at first, but the process is somewhat complicated and the end result is open to interpretation
PEM: There are comparisons between your angels and images of Ahura Mazda. Were you inspired by Ahura Mazda and Persian folklore and mythology when creating this series?
HA: I wasn’t thinking of any special period when I was making these. However, unconsciously this work is rooted in the religious culture of Iran, but the language it uses for its presentation is modern. [This series] is similar to Iranian curtain paintings of the past–standing before these paintings and being photographed, is a modern process.
The role of angels, other than existing in our mass culture, is also a part of our mythological past which also existed in the Qajar period in a more humane manner. In all these works the angel is seen as a symbol of purity with ties to morality. They are basically thought of as celestial creatures, and although angels don’t belong to any particular country, they carry a message that is internationally understood across humanity and history.
PEM: Who are the people in your photographs, family, friends, models?
HA: I had made a curtain picture of my family which I carried around Iran with myself for three years. I asked different people to work with me. Like curtain holders of ancient Iran, people would circle around me to become angels. In fact this is a process that was only made possible with the presence of people.
PEM: Were these pieces created in Iran?
HA: Yes, all the angles have been created in Iran. Working with these people was extremely interesting and exciting. They believed that their wishes had been granted and that this was the actualization of their dreams.
In Iran, most private galleries tend to veer towards political and gender themes. I believe all people can become angels in character regardless of gender. Perhaps the modern world and technology has separated people from their essence with things like war and racism, but imagining being an angel even for an instance is pacifying.
To me, it brought great satisfaction to record such moments and for me these angels were a rewriting of heaven in the modern world. As Rumi says:
we lived in the heavens and were friends of angels
…there will we once more return for that is our rightful place
PEM: Will you continue to develop your “Angel” series or are you moving into a new direction?
HA:I have other projects with the angels but which I am as yet unable to promote for lack of a sponsor. However, alongside my angels I have started another body of work in which the angels appear alongside fighter planes, unconsciously.
To see more of Amani’s mystical and awe-inducing angels, you can view more of his work on: janetradyfineart.com. His next public exhibition will open this summer, on June 29th in Lithuania, curated by Edward Lucie Smith and Janet Rady at the Klaipeda Culture Communication Center Exhibition Hall.