Meeting Shirazeh Houshiary

Meeting Shirazeh Houshiary

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November 2016

She came hopping over towards us. White trousers and a dark brown turtleneck jumper.

I couldn’t help but notice the oriental style slippers on her feet, with their narrow tips pointing up.

She welcomed us with a smile. Such a surprise! I was expecting an introvert and quiet woman, mirror of the intensity of her work.

Christine introduced each other and we headed to her studio.

I had just met Shirazeh Houshiary, one of the greatest living artists in the world.

As a student in my last year of the BA Fine Art Degree course at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London, one of my many dreams was to be able to witness the imaginary reality of the great masters of the past; enter their studios and watch every brushstroke, every flicker of ink, every gesture, torment, excitement.

Who knows what Georgia O’Keeffe’s feelings were in front of a white canvas, or Eva Hesse’s, entangled within her wonderful interlacements of latex; what was Henry Matisse experiencing while cutting out coloured shapes and gluing them onto a piece of paper with such brilliant mastery?

So, I chose to prepare a thesis on ‘The mistery of the creative process’ and to know directly from someone who knew; from this Master I had studied in my college text books, who first left a lasting blueprint on my artistic research and who lent herself to our meeting with unexpected willingness.

How thrilling. I still remember when we got into this white and immaculate place.

Only small canvases on the floor against the walls, a big work in progress lying flat in the middle of the studio and a big-size work on the wall at the bottom.

The space was spartan, a stereo and a lot of CDs on a table, paint, jars of materials of different nature and brushes on another one. We talked about this and that, she showed us one of the first paintings of the last series and told us that, to her, only black and white exhist and that colours are a distraction from the essence of a thing.

‘There is light and darkness and being simple is the most difficult thing in the world’

She showed us photos of her paintings. Subtle the work on the canvas, ‘one should see them live to really feel them’.

We headed for this restaurant close to her studio, to have lunch. It was an open space with very high ceilings, that reminded me of a New York loft straightaway.

I explained to her why I had wanted to meet her.The conversation, unusual for me at the time, flowed smoothly. It felt like we had always known each other.

She gave me her phone numbers and we agreed on a further meeting.

The rest of it when, soon, I will make up my mind and reorganize the notes taken during our interview, thus giving some order to this fond memories of mine and being able to share it with those who want to know more about it.

(in the picture above, work by Shirazeh Houshiary, ‘East Window’ at St Martin on the field’s church, London)