Mahsa Rahbari is an Iranian born artist who left her country, town and family to follow her dreams of being able to fully express herself as an artist.
Who are you?
My name is Mahsa Rahbari and I am an Iranian born artist.
What do you do?
I am an artist and a personal trainer living in London.
Why do you do it?
Art and Fitness has always been my passions, where I could always experience freedom. I grew up feeling very restricted as a woman and I wasn’t allowed to express my feelings and my sexuality. So art and fitness became the two places where I could express my feelings through paint and colours, and body movement.
What does the theme “In My Town” mean to you?
“In My Town” means to me, the place where I feel I have freedom, where I can express myself as a human being and where I can speak out about my rights as a woman, and where I can embrace my sexuality and have the freedom to discover my very unique self.
Why did you leave your town?
I left my town as I felt restricted and locked in the prison of culture and religion. I left my town to build a new town for myself where I can choose to live my life the way I want to and feel the freedom.
What was your first experience as an artist in a new town, new country?
I felt so lost at first as I never had this freedom before. It was hard to let go of all the rules and restrictions that I grew up with. It was very overwhelming and took me years to finally adjust myself to the freedom that I had. I felt worthy as an artist and that I could build a career as an artist, especially being a woman. I first called myself feminist, and I still am, but I have a different approach, being a feminist back in my old town was translated into acting like a boy and feeling that I have to be a tomboy and hide my sexuality.
What did you find most difficult about leaving/ arriving?
Leaving all my friends and people that I loved behind. People that made me happy and the ones who always understood me. All the memories, and things that I wanted to do for my people and country. Unfortunately, I was just shut down instead of being encouraged. Arriving in a new country/ town with a completely different language and culture, felt extremely hard to communicate and engage with people and didn’t feel that I belonged here, for years I felt so lost. I felt I had no identity and I felt overwhelmed with what I had to do to learn to survive and succeed.
Are you still in touch with your family?
After going through a lot of breakups with my family, I’m very pleased that my family now have a better understanding of me as an artist. Although I have gone through lots of challenges with them, I think because of those challenges I have become what I am now and I’m proud of that.
How did your work/ or you change when you moved?
My art became a tool for my self-discovery. I was holding a lot back and it suddenly became my personal discovery’s playground. I was making work while trying to understand who I was, what I want to be, and discovering myself as a woman. I felt uncomfortable making art as it felt like I was breaking the taboos I grew up with. Also I found it empowering to let go of my fears and things that were holding me back. I felt like a fighter who has been fighting for her freedom for a long time and now it was the time to be brave to show who I am with my art and that art is my voice!
How has your past informed the work you create today?
I was trained in a classical style. Over the years this form of art began to feel restrictive. Having to produce strict lines or follow a set of rules whilst creating felt all too similar to the restrictive nature of where I grew up. Producing such art also evoked a sense of unattainable perfection from within which, in turn, led to over-analysing my potential subject matter. Eventually, I became afraid to create art “unworthy” of the mere canvas it existed upon. This is the main reason my current art comprises of conceptual and abstract pieces, where I incorporate lines, paints, and colours freely; thus, enabling me to create without rules, restrictions, self-criticism, or fear.
Through impromptu brush strokes and colour choices, I experience pure freedom and moments of power; these experiences enable me to gain complete control over my creativity and imperfections. The freedom I feel whilst creating in this manner, directly parallels to the freedom I hope for people to experience in everyday life: the freedom to be unbound by internal mental restrictions, or by external restrictions set in place by society.
My current inspiration comes from being optimistic and wanting to generate positivity through my art, and actions. I attempt to instil these same feelings within anyone that views my artwork; my excitement for life is felt during every brush stroke I make, and I want this feeling to come through My art and be absorbed by every spectator.
My journey from overwhelming oppression (which restrained my effervescent personality) in my younger years, to my new-found unrestrained freedom, has allowed me to be myself and create art without constraint or fear.
What does your recent work say about your current town/situation?
It’s about the positivity and the freedom my new town London has offered me. Full of opportunities and that every individual is welcomed to be the very unique themselves as they wish. This town feeds from positivities and its cosmopolitan people.
What is happening In Your Town?
My town is growing with many artists like me. Artists that bringing colours and sparkles to this town and filling it with love and happiness.
Find Mahsa here: instagram.com/joythroughart/