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The Wall Artist

“I am CK1, 24 years old. I’ve signed my artwork with this name on the streets of Tehran for the last seven years. I’m happy that countless people have the chance to see my work. It’s like playing a game for me.” That is how Keyvan Heydari, a Tehran graffiti artist, introduces himself.

Graffiti is now an art form of the modern world, where the public at large can see the work.
Known also as ‘wall drawing’, it involves design and drawing on walls and any other publicly visible location. It was originally a form of protest art and social critique, starting with protest movements in Mexico. The streets of Tehran are also filled with graffiti now. This art form has not yet established itself as in some other countries, and is still unknown. It only started four years ago with a pioneering group called the ‘Street Rats”. Their work was continued by another group, the ‘Rats’, who converted an abandoned swimming pool in Tehran into a skateboarding area. This was featured in much photography and also in film including ‘This is Tehran’ by Said Haddad.

Keyvan continues, “I work in the streets of Tehran in the middle of the night, when you are asleep or watching TV. My bedtime is when you go to work”. Keyvan who studied Art in the Azad University of Tabriz says his work is influenced by Islamic art and Persian calligraphy. In his view the broken Nastaligh style of calligraphy is best suited to graffiti.

In some of his work, modern art is mixed with traditional, differentiating it from that of other graffiti artists. Being a graffiti ‘wall artist’ in Iran is fraught with difficulties. Interestingly, however, Tehran City Council set up a graffiti competition, which Keyvan Heydari won.

“I felt a contradiction between the atmosphere of the university and the street. Finishing university, I was on the street again, yet with academic experiences filling my thoughts. They knew nothing of graffiti at university, and the general public likewise. Graffit is often mistaken for slogan writing. There is always some obstacle thrown up by the city administration to overcome, as well as political interpretations of the artwork”.

“Working in the depth of night, there is a pervasive fear of discovery by the police. There are always eyes following your movements. Still, I enjoy my work. I take pleasure in roaming the streets, leaving behind stickers and a trail of my having been there. I know somebody’s eyes will notice, and think about it.”

Keyvan Heidari considers people’s reaction to his work the most important aspect. “Some people pay attention to their surroundings and notice it, some are oblivious and plod on with their lives. Others even try to destroy the graffiti. Once, an old man tried to get me stop because he said what I was doing was destroying public property”.

“The opposite also happens, when someone watches the work intently, and when I’m finished, photographs it. You never know what you might experience on the streets, as they have no rules, as my work also doesn’t have.”

In the slide show, you will see some of the wall drawings of Keyvan Heydari selected by the artist himself to show on Jadid Online. The background song is by the Iranian metal band, ‘Astigmat’.

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