The German-born Iranian visual artist Damun Jawanrudi seems to one the kind of young idealist painter we all wish we could aspire to be. Always fascinated by an ever-evolving idea of love and the juxtaposition between emotional angst, heartbreak, and the deepest sense of literally FALLING in love, this noteworthy emerging artist – whose “professional” career as an architect already includes positions at the prestigious Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron in Hamburg (where he worked on the construction of the famous Elbe Philharmonic Hall) exhibits a refreshing and gloriously optimistic (albeit sometimes quite dark) outlook within his works that, upon viewing, should sustain us all in our daily lives.


Influenced by Jackson Pollock, Caspar David Friedrich, Gerhard Richter, and later by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, Jawanrudi’s works often reference these great masters for their intensity and organized chaos.


The young artist recently unveiled his newest series, “Works Of Painting, Series #1-#6.2,”and the result is an illustration an artist who – after spending some time in New York immersed in the art scene – is broadly excavating, through large scale canvases, the question of love its deepest, boldest, and richest form. Not surprising, since New York is also where the artist fell in love and was left tortured by the impending break-up. In his excavation, the artist explores the depth of love by utilizing rich textures in broad strokes of bold colors on top of one another in a somewhat reckless, yet structured freeform. Nothing is stable in Jawanrudi’s depiction of love and loveless; and yet one always gets a sense that the artist is, in fact, hopeful, optimistic, and excited about this searching. Nothing falls; but all colors rise, nay, leap of the canvas – Blacks peaking through wherever blood red happens to have forgotten to leave a memory (or narrative), to let the viewer know that love is never just left at one. It is a duality or a multiplicity of emotional and physical endurance. It is the tug of war that must always be hard fought – and in a perfect world, won – because after all, even when the heart is broken, one has had the opportunity to know what it is to fall in that love. There is a sense of healing that emanates through and is palpably present in these works. In “Works Of Painting, Series #1-#6.2”, Jawanrudi is perhaps excavating the most meaningful expression of the importance and significance of the emotional process, rather than the simple destination to a result. After all, isn’t that part of what it’s all about?


Art Zealous spoke with the artist in Germany to find out more about his newest series:


Art Zealous: What was the impetus behind “Works Of Painting, Series #1 – #6.2?”

Damun Jawanrudi: The impetus for this series is very classical to me. They say the biggest masterpieces were created with people being on the edge of their emotions, good or bad. And even today we can feel the impact of these extreme emotions in songs, paintings, poems, etc. 


This is the story behind the beginnings of my work as well. I met a woman that brought my whole world upside down, creating an environment for me in which I was able to see and feel what I had always missed under my own surface. An experience so spiritual and surreal, that I felt as if I had been misunderstanding myself and the world I am living in for years; and that I am now slowly starting to get closer to the actual core and roots of my being. There are many different interpretations for this sudden turn in my life, but for me, I was, and I am convinced that I felt deep and strong love for the first time in my life in such a way I had never believed existed or anyone is capable of. In addition to this new state, I had also been far from home with a foreign language, foreign people, a foreign lifestyle/culture and a time difference to my home town that almost makes it impossible to catch up with family and friends on a regular basis. So really a brand new chapter for me had begun that was not closely connected to my previous life. 


Right at the peak of this journey, I had to realize that loving someone and being loved is not a guarantee for happiness in a relationship; more so it can be a potential, a chance. Soon, everything changed from personal enlightening to emotional chaos, finally leading to separation and isolation – a big fall from the sky that had become dark, cloudy and full of thunder already onto the hard, cold and lonely concrete of the ground. This fall took everything that made this new chapter what it was and left nothing but a huge vacuum that I could not distract myself from. Usually, in these types of situations, you automatically go back to certain old routines, with your family or people who know you for years for example. At that time I had just moved to New York, far from everything I had known in a completely new environment, so I was not able to do any of this. My longing for something familiar, something personal to me, something that lets me experience what I am going through in these foreign surroundings became stronger and stronger and seemed like the only solution. I remember well envisioning to buy a canvas and splashing paint on it one day. It was something that I had always been doing; it was a natural state – the feeling of closeness to myself that I was desperately needing in this new and confusing chapter of mine. Just the thought of it brought a certain calmness to me. Summarizing, I can say that practically being forced to confront myself with my difficult situation rather than being able to distract myself from it brought me to #1. Realizing that it had given me beyond everything I could ever imagine and more brought me all the way to #6.2.


#1, 48×48, acrylic on canvas


AZ: How long did each painting take to work on and what was the process? 

DJ: Usually, I paint for at least 1-2 hours up to 5 hours per day. It starts with buying paint in colors that I feel the most connection to at the time and choosing the dimensions of the canvas. This preparation part itself was always very meditative to me and gave me great confidence. From the moment I am in the studio and the canvas is on the wall there is no script. Basically, I turn on my music, stare at the blank canvas and just start painting until I feel satisfied with where I am, or I become very tired; this is where I stop and let the painting hang for a while. If I still enjoy what I see up until the next day and feel good about it, then I know I am done. Otherwise, I just repeat the process until I am there. For me, it is a very feeling-based process. During painting, I do not feel like thinking. Something being right or wrong is solely determined by what feels good or not to me.


AZ: Were you working on anything else concurrent to working on these pieces, and did that have any effect on the works themselves? 

DJ: Since I was also working full-time at an architectural office, there wasn’t much time to dive into painting completely. I would literally steal hours in order to paint. These quiet hours are what produced these paintings as well as a few sketches, one of them being “Mann und Stuhl”, which I personally find most representative for this series. However, apart from a physical piece of art, I have been working on understanding myself as a person further very intensely in multiple ways and really digging deep down to places I had not reached before. This has always kept me curious and excited about my paintings and definitely had an effect on the work itself.


Mann und Stuhl (man and chair), Charcoal


AZ: Would you say the series is a homage to love, and why? 

DJ: Yes and no. I honestly never intended to homage anything or anyone or to paint for a specific reason. However, I have no doubt that the series completely emerged out of the feeling of love and everything related and connected to it. So in a certain way, it is a homage to one type of my very own, personal and intimate perception of love, out of so many various types of love that there are.


I cannot think of another word that has so many different definitions, interpretations, and appearances. Something, you cannot really grab or put into a box, something that moves and changes its form constantly; it is the freest and most fascinating thing to me.


AZ: Did you find aspects of hate evolved in the works and how did you depict that? 

DJ: Surprisingly, I did not. I used to think when love does not get the right respect and sensitivity that it needs, hate evolves. For myself and through my journey, I have realized that hate is not pure; it is a cover of fear, of hurt, of loneliness. It does not go deep, but we choose to think it does because it is easier, less painful, so we do not have to face our actual emotions and really take a look inside ourselves and listen to that little someone deep within ourselves that is screaming for help and attention. 


My work comes from a very deep and honest place – personal, intimate emotions; the ones that are behind what I can capture myself sometimes even.  Hate is not one of them, but I can find aspects of love, passion, aggression, helplessness, desperation, confusion, hope and so much more. In any case, it does make a big difference knowing myself and the state of my being during that time when looking at my work. The same parts that can be interpreted as hate could actually be screaming out of pain. This is why this series is so important to me and has helped me to really dig deep and open up to myself in the first place.


AZ: As this is the first public outing of any of your works, how have you found the reception so far? 

DJ: It has been mind-blowing. When you work and live very introverted over such a long period of time and then completely turn everything upside down and open up you do not really have any expectations, you are just waiting, observing. But realizing that your intimate and personal work can trigger something within people is overwhelming. Something that carries such a profound memory for you yourself can have a meaning for others as well, regardless of whether it has a similar meaning or not. This whole journey has not only brought me closer to myself but also to others as a part of the human experience.


AZ: If there is a museum or gallery you would wish these works to be exhibited, where would it be? 

DJ: Honestly, I would be lying if I would exclude any space, that would find interest in my work and would like to exhibit and share it with others. Naturally, I do find more interest in places in locations that I currently have a personal relation to, such as New York, Berlin or Cologne.


#3, 48×60, acrylic on canvas


AZ: Can you please tell us about the trajectory of “Series 1 all the way to Series 6.2?”

DJ: I try not to explain my work in such detail because it would imply that I completely understand it or myself, which is not the case. The same way that I think that love has many interpretations, I believe that my work leaves room for that, too. For me, this is one big part of the beauty of it, there will (hopefully) never be a definite and official explanation of my work. Up until today, I still find new things in my paintings that I had not seen before. Especially now with people commenting on them, I get really surprised at times listening to their perceptions and their interpretations. 


This does not mean that my work does not have an obvious, general topic and was not created in a specific context; still, everyone is welcome to find their truth in it.


AZ: In which piece did you find you had reached the climax of your questioning of love? 

DJ: I would rather phrase it as “The questioning of myself,” which is definitely the questioning of love as well. 


I felt different, sometimes more, sometimes less, during all of the pieces of this series; but I would say I had the most intense experience while working on the first one, “#1”. The first attempt of this unknown something, the beginning of a chapter that I had no idea of. I can remember it very well, but I do not know if I can describe in words what I felt. What I can say is that I felt like I was in a rush, a rush that was very unfamiliar and followed with a huge feeling of relief and exhaustion, as if someone had hypnotized you to run a marathon and then brought you back to being conscious and you cannot remember anything. Yet, you feel different and that confuses you – “What has just happened to me?!”


A climax is usually something that comes after an increase and is followed by a decrease. I did not feel an up and down, just things moving in different directions.


AZ: What’s next for you? 

DJ: Next for me is to close this chapter for now. The New York Series is over and I had some time now to gather some new thoughts and feelings for this new chapter that is coming up. I am excited and curious about what to expect and how it will reflect on my art. I took some time off and I will be volunteering and traveling for a while, really focusing on being open and receptive for new things and isolating myself for a moment from the typical day to day routines and connections. My studio in Cologne is all prepared and ready for me to come back and start the Cologne Series soon.