Interview with new Young Masters Artist, Cyrus Mahboubian
CM: All photography is to some extent about stopping time and capturing certain moments. My work is often concerned with beauty – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, even though today, when contemporary art is typically very conceptual, we are made to feel like it isn’t enough. Having said that, not everything I photograph is beautiful or even interesting, but I aim to present things in an elegant and poetic way.
What is it about the Young Masters project that you are most interested in?
The fact that the exhibition is formed around an understanding of the history of art. I think it’s crucial for visual artists to be aware of what came before, and how ideas and styles evolve over time. Also I’m excited to take part in an exhibition during the week of Frieze Art Fair, which is such an important time for art in London.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
I studied History of Art at university and generally feel inspired by a very wide range of art, including classical antiquity, tribal art, the Italian Renaissance, the Pre-Raphaelites, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. In terms of my own work, though, it is certainly informed by great photographers of the 20th century: for example André Kertész’s composition, Robert Frank’s truth, Guy Bourdin’s imagination and William Eggleston’s colour.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I was born in London to Iranian parents who settled here after the revolution of 1978-9. I was educated here, but there are things about my upbringing that are ingrained in me, such as a love of poetry and gardens, which are major themes in Persian culture.
What inspired you to become an artist?
After I graduated from university I worked in an office for a few years, but I felt unfulfilled and grew increasingly restless. I needed to be doing something more creative and became determined to pursue an artistic career. I got the confidence to leave my day job when Tate invited me to give an artist talk at Tate Britain in July 2012.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
Probably a designer of some kind. I think I’d train to design landscape gardens; I have a deep-rooted love of nature and very few things are better than a beautiful garden for me.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I was recently chosen to be the Artist-in-Residence at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, supported by Chelsea Arts Club Trust. I’m attached to an upcoming production, ‘THE BODY OF AN AMERICAN’, and will produce some new work in response to the play, to be exhibited at the theatre in January-Feburary 2014. Dan O’Brien’s script references some very serious historical events, so it’s a great opportunity for me to create some intelligent, thoughtful work.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m working on publishing my first artist book. The main content will be a group of photographs I made during the opening week of Venice Biennale this year using only a disposable camera. Using such a basic instrument, at a time when many photographers rely on high-tech equipment and digital editing, was a challenge to demonstrate the strength of my eye. I’m hoping to launch the book in December this year.
Cyrus will be showing two photographic works, including Silent Pool (Ophelia), above, at the Young Masters exhibition at Sphinx Fine Art October.