Infusing art with Persian-influence

Morwell-based artist Abbas Mehran drinks tea in his home. photographs anne simmons
Morwell-based artist Abbas Mehran drinks tea in his home. photographs anne simmons

Iranian-born artist Abbas Mehran's back shed looks out to his yard where a vegetable garden starts to take shape and some red chillies are having a second go at sun-drying after some unsuspected rain.

The painter recently uprooted from hilly Boolarra to Morwell where his garden shed will become his new painting studio.

It will be a return to the art-form Mr Mehran couldn't touch after a family tragedy in 2014.

"My daughter Marsha Mehran was an international bestseller novelist ... and she was working on her third book in Ireland," Mr Mehran said.

"She was alone by herself and she got sick ... and then she didn't seek help, I don't know for what reason, anyway, she died.

"Since then I couldn't paint."

His daughter's highest-selling novel Pomegranate Soup was translated into about 15 languages.

Mr Mehran set himself the task of finishing a book she had started, The Margaret Thatcher School of Beauty, set in Argentina where the family lived for some time after they left Iran at the time of the revolution.

Mr Mehran dipped his toe back into painting recently when he painted Australiana imagery on a standing bookcase for the pop-up library in Boolarra's Railway Park.

"Birds are reading a book, and another bird is protesting 'no don't read' and somebody else says 'yes'," Mr Mehran said.

He said the design was about knowledge and "guarding and protecting the tree of life", but "unfortunately nobody cares about trees anymore".

Abbas Mehran paints the Australian landscape with Persian influence.

Abbas Mehran paints the Australian landscape with Persian influence.

After Mr Mehran moved to South Australia in 1993 from Miami he looked to the Australian landscape for his art for the first time.

"I went outside and sat down ... surrounded by bush and tall trees," he said.

"I look at it and realise you see that the whole branches at the top and the different trees are coming up and talking to each other, communicating, meeting each other and affecting and being affected by each other."

He said his Australian paintings where warped trees intermingled lacked perspective like traditional Western landscapes.

"I love this type of painting. The reason is that because Persian art, Persian music is internally related ... it is about soul or heart, meanwhile western culture ... is about outside," he said.

"When I listen to ... western classical music, I like feel like I'm flying over mountains, then I listen to ... Persian classical music, I go inside myself, deep inside myself. I may cry or feel sad or whatever."

"Landscape, the way I approach it, is internally."

The artist painted the bookcase for the Boolarra pop-up library.

The artist painted the bookcase for the Boolarra pop-up library.

When Mr Mehran moved to Boolarra in 2010 he returned to painting forests after noticing the regeneration of the previous year's devastating wild fires.

It was where the artist fell in love with lawn bowls after the greenkeeper encouraged him to have a go 20 days after he arrived in town.

Now Mr Mehran can see a new life in Morwell with the completion of his daughter's book.

"It means I am going to write and also paint - and bowl," he said.

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