by Shahrooz Shekaraubi
Aftab recently had the pleasure of interviewing Niki Zarrabi, a distinguished Atlanta based Mixed media Artist. Niki Zarrabi’s works are recognized for their complexity and profundity, and for their ability to simultaneously capture intimate elements of the human experience. To stay updated about Niki please visitwww.nikizarrabi.com
Please give our readers a little bit of information about yourself.
Niki Zarrabi: I am an Atlanta based mixed media artist. I graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in 2014. I have been exhibiting around Atlanta for several years, working from my own studio and working part time at a downtown art firm.
Did you grow up with art as apart of your daily life? The routes of many artists into the Art world is often circuitous. Was that your experience? How and when did you say, ‘I’m going to do this’?
Niki Zarrabi: I grew up drawing and painting, taking art classes all throughout school but I actually don’t have a history of artists in my family so I was the first to take the ‘artist’ path. It was always really more of a hobby for me though. It was not until college that I decided that the “art world” was for me. I had originally planned to transfer to Georgia Tech to study industrial design but decided to just pick up a couple of the art classes while at Georgia State and ended up falling in love with the art program. I found the creative environment of being around so many artists and sharing work with one another so inspiring. I realized right then that I would be happiest making art and doing what I love for the rest of my life.
In your opinion, what is integral to the work of an artist?
Niki Zarrabi: I’ve found that purpose is almost crucial in artwork. I know art can also be used for therapeutic reasons, but in the context of the work of an artist, I have found that ambition has proven to make for the most impactful and inspirational work. Otherwise the work becomes trivial.
Name some names. What art do you most identity with?
Niki Zarrabi: Growing up I was always inspired by Egon Schiele’s figurative style and Gustav Klimt’s paintings but as my personal style evolved and my voice in the art world was found, I began drawing inspiration from other contemporary artists such as Matthew Ritchie, Kathleen Thum and Valerie Hegarty, to name a few. I wouldn’t exactly say that I “identify” with these artists because our styles vary and we have differing messages, but I would say that I find their work very influential.
What projects are you working on right now?
Niki Zarrabi: For the past couple months I have been preparing for a collaborative art exhibition titled Meet Me in 4D that is incredibly different from anything I have ever done before. The show is comprised of large scale installations and paintings that fall under a theme of “technology”. My work usually focuses on the complete opposite of that so it was a bit of challenge to get out of my element but it has been an amazing learning experience.
Where are you finding inspiration for your work these days?
Niki Zarrabi: So my own personal work, outside of the Meet Me in 4D exhibition, explores the complex relationship between spirituality and the science of human existence. I find inspiration primarily from Biology and Science. I use my art to depict the structure of our universe as a means to understanding its sustenance. You’ll find that most my work is comprised of small, delicate layers which are meant to represent the countless, fragile yet complex elements that come together in order to give us life. I guess you could almost say its like an homage to every elemental component that without there would be no life.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Niki Zarrabi: I love experimenting with different materials. I think it allows for an artist’s work to evolve, enhance and find new meaning. I have however found that several mediums in particular have worked best for carrying out my message most effectively, but I enjoy changing it up every now and then. I usually use wooden panels that I build myself. This allows for customization but also speaks to the conceptual “nature” side of my work. I often look for hardwood with bold woodgrain because I like to play off of it. I also use plexiglass because it is reminiscent of slides used in microscopes and makes for an interesting surface for paint on.
How important is accuracy in painting? What does the phrase ‘perfect’ mean for you?
Niki Zarrabi: Well I think that accuracy and perfection are both completely subjective terms when it comes to art. My work is primarily abstract anyway so I don’t strive for accuracy in my depiction of the universe. One of my art professors once said to me when I was struggling on when to stop working on a piece, “Is a painting ever really finished?”. So I think that perfection is not be something to aim for but to instead find a point where I am satisfied with the end result.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, it affects your work?
Niki Zarrabi: I work from home in my garage that I have transformed into a personal studio. I built a couple moveable drywalls to mount my work on and put together a mini carpentry station for building my own panels and frames. It’s not much, but it works. I’m sure that I would work more efficiently if I had a bigger space but I get by just fine for now.
You’ve had plenty of exhibitions and projects, what was the first artwork you ever sold?
Niki Zarrabi: The first piece I sold was at the first actual art show I was in. It was while I was still attending Georgia State. A friend of mine threw together a small group show at a little venue in East Atlanta Village. I was surprised I even sold anything because the space was so small and the turn out wasn’t that big but nonetheless, it felt like a conquest!
What’s your favorite place to see art?
Niki Zarrabi: I guess as far as fine art goes, I really enjoy going out to opening ceremonies at local galleries. I think its great to go out and support because there isn’t a ton of galleries out here in Atlanta and it takes a lot to keep them running. I also love that Atlanta’s street art scene is growing. Seeing murals in downtown Atlanta has a huge impact on community I think. It can brighten up a whole neighborhood.
What do you want your art to translate to those who view it?
Niki Zarrabi: My main goal is to open up the minds of viewers, giving them an alternate perspective. I want them to think about and appreciate our existence from a different point of view than they normally would. I aim to create art that speaks to them on a bigger scale than just beauty or decor.