Whitehot Magazine

Darvish On Interrupting Reality and Making Sense of Conflict

Darvish, Let It All Go, 2022, oil on canvas, 41 x 13 cm. Courtesy of the artist.


For Iranian-American painter and movement artist Darvish, there is no greater human act than living in the present. After a fire leveled Darvish’s studio and tragically took somebody’s life, he had thought he lost everything. Upon returning to the burned down space, Darvish looked at the paintings he had worked on and saw something new emerge. “I was convinced my paintings were all ruined,” he says, “but when they finally let me back in, I could see that the paintings were ravaged and scarred but somehow more interesting, more real. The ‘now’ had come crashing into my utopia and changed my life forever. I was never the same after that day.”  

Since that somber and fated day, Darvish has made it his mission to seek out that shift in perspective—“a disruption of realism”—and apply it to his work. 

Sitting with these “interferences,” Darvish paints scenes from his lived experiences and then purposely paints over them with text or symbols or scarred markings. Much like the fire in his first studio, Darvish proposes that not everything destroyed is lost. He transforms the narrative from that of ruin to one that incites hope and vitality, a way to slip into a more sustainable and vital present mindset.  

He explains of his paintings, “Sometimes I apply paint stripper, sometimes I use words. Again, it’s that dichotomy where I am almost desecrating something that I have given so much time and care to create. It’s liberating both for me and the painting, like letting go of a balloon. The text becomes the foreground, and the painting drops back in meaning. You literally must read between the lines to see the image behind it.”  

Photograph of Darvish by Hugh Fox.

There’s an inherent dichotomy that exists in reviewing work to go back and change it with an idea that has yet to be created—this is the space that Darvish explores, occupies, and relishes in.

Born in Canada and raised in the United States, Darvish felt a certain push and pull effect that can often come with an immigrant upbringing. He reflects, “My father is Iranian, my mother is English, I was born in Canada, and I grew up in America. I was never meant to fit in anywhere, though I spent a lot of my youth trying. As a child in Boston, during the Iranian revolution, I was bullied a lot by my patriotic classmates. There was a fervor of hatred going around toward anything Middle Eastern, and kids were throwing rocks through my windows at age 10.” To process and subvert this hatred, Darvish became an artist to “show how much more interesting things can be when we overlap our cultures as opposed to separating them.” 

In one of his paintings that features an Osho quote—“Let it all go. See what stays.”—Darvish doubles down on his philosophy that freedom is accepting two truths can exist at once. He recounts the inspiration for the piece sharing, “My uncle in Isfahan once reminded me that we are all on a rock flying through space over 1000mph, so there is really no need to hold onto things so tightly. This reminder was another profound moment in my life, after which notions of ‘letting go’ and ‘flying high’ became a big part of my outlook.” 

Darvish, The Wound, 2022, Oil stick and oil paint on gesso panel, 30 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Along with his paintings, Darvish utilizes dance and movement of the body as another level to his practice. In what he calls “entering a flow state,” he sees this as another means to further delve into letting go of the things beyond our control and can, in so many ways, weigh it all down. He regales, “I grew up on a trampoline. Not belonging to any one land or people, I feel comfortable when I’m airborne. There is a moment at the top of a jump, just before you come down, when time seems to be suspended; everything is peaceful and still. The higher the jump the longer that moment seems to last. I feel like all my art is about that moment somehow. ‘Being high’ as a metaphor for freedom is a big part of what I do—the concept of getting high off all that's around me.” 

By deepening an understanding of what comes out of the liminal crevasses of our collective consciousness, Darvish excavates the room needed to be unobstructed by the sobering and darker sides of existence. He adds, "By offering different modes of behavior, movement and especially pace, I am hoping to make the road of expression wider for everyone.”

Darvish’s body of work (both painting and movement art) is essentially about looking at our boundaries to find harmony. At a time when conflict and divisiveness is a constant battle, Darvish and his work can be looked at as a self-check, warning us of our egos and the walls that create the dissonance that impedes good feelings of contentment and peace.

When I ask what might be next for him, Darvish simply states, “I may take up base jumping.” 

To learn more about Darvish, please visit his website here and follow his Instagram. WM

Mariepet Mangosing

Mariepet Mangosing is a bi-coastal writer and graphic designer from Jersey City. She has worked in brand packaging, web and print design for the past decade. Her feature length screenplay The Batholiths has been shortlisted in the Macro x Blacklist Feature Screenwriting Incubator program. In her work, she advocates mental wellness and accurate cultural representation in film, television and other media. She examines relationship dynamics through a first-generation immigrant lens. She has her BA in Visual Communications from Ramapo College of New Jersey and is an MFA candidate in Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University.

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