If you peer past the stereotypes, endless propaganda on both sides of the divide and the dark theocratic veil of Iran, it won’t be long before you touch both the not so silent underground and the extraordinarily nuanced pathos of Icy and Sot’s art. Infusing the international visual language of global street art with a deeply personal and targeted meaning, their spectacular range of work takes on the political, the individual and the universal as haunting flashes of innocence sweep through bold statements of identity, freedom and social justice. Whether it be superbly layered stencils rendering an almost photographic sense of fleeting memory, silent screams of humanity, intensely political canvases beckoning a new dawn of cultural freedom or quick cheeky pastes in Tehran’s streets, they have truly made the medium their own and made the stencil and the can sing their own biting refrain. They were open enough and brave enough to speak to LSD, although we did keep our direct political questions to a minimum. If its a tale of resistance and the triumph of the spirit you’re after – the art does all the talking you need
Tell us a little about Tabriz and the creative scene there
Its a city in the north-west of Iran, and kinda boring – there really isn’t much going on here to be honest. It does have really beautiful countryside and landscapes surrounding it, but all the creativity is mostly focused on the traditional art fields
How did you first develop an interest in art
It started with our career in skateboarding, especially Sot’s. We used to watch skate videos and play skate games all the time, and we saw graffiti and stencils on the walls which initially sparked our interest. We then started with small things like stickers and small amateur stencils, and we began spraying them and posting them up on our spots and gathering places.
How did being brothers and working together influence the development of your art
We were and are best friends, and when we started, there were very few people (most of whom were in our circle of friends) who knew what graffiti, stencil and the whole street culture was. Being brothers helped us a lot as we did everything together – drinking, hanging out, stenciling – everything and overall we just understood each other.
When did you first begin to cut stencils and how differently did you have to approach that from canvas pieces
A few years ago when we began thinking about our first exhibition and we started sophisticating our works around 2008. Is your art seen as a political statement in Iran Well it is, even our non-political works are considered offensive to the government and it’s also illegal like everywhere else except for the glaring fact that it’s much more dangerous for us here as the accusations potentially leveled at you go way beyond vandalism and criminal damage, so the risks are far greater
How do the public respond to your work and how does that differ with the reaction of the authorities
Graffiti and stencil has a long way to go before it becomes a part of our culture, and people realise what it really is. because of the lack of exposure here in this field, people aren’t familiar enough with these sorts of things., maybe if a pedestrian passes by a graffiti or stencil they might not know what it is or they might not have any interest in it, or maybe in some cases they might even wipe it off. For an example Icy once did a wheatpaste, went away for a few minutes just for it to dry off and when he came back a guy was tearing it off. But despite all of this it does now and again impact and influence some people on very rare occasions What does the imagery of childhood and children mean to you Innocence and the fact that they aren’t poisoned by the world around them. Child labour is still an issue all over the world.
Tell us about the Scream
Its a way of showing “Relief” and “Objection”
How important is the chador (veil) as a symbol
l Its mostly a symbol of stereotype and old fashioned Iran, and mostly just to show that the characters that we use are Iranian – nothing important!
How important is location to the placement of your work – and does your choice of location vary with the piece of art
Our priority is mostly the safety of the area and the rate of spectators that pass by there, But other things such as texture and colour play a major part in the placement too. How do you create the haunting, fading sense of a lost memory in some of your black and white stencils By the facial reactions and the emotions.
Tell us a little about the wider Iranian street art scene
The street art scene in Iran is not much different to what’s going on in our own city, except in Tehran. It’s much more common there, and it has started to become a part of people’s lives. Therefore most of our street works are in Tehran. Yet it’s illegal and dangerous everywhere. We notice that some of your stencils are pasted internationally – do you travel much or do other artists paste up your stencils for you Our current state is all about that. We’ve got friends worldwide and they do it for us, but we would really like it if we could do it ourselves. Unfortunately, in Iran our travel options are severely limited, and before a man can exit the country he has to do a year and a half of military service so that he can get his passport. Because of that, we decided to drop school and pass this goddamn period of time. We have spent one year of that year and a half so far.
What possibilities does canvas open up beyond the scope of a stencil
We work on canvases for our exhibitions and to be able to sell our work.
How much has the internet revolutionised and internationalised your art
Everything from our photostreams to our Facebook page, without it we would never had this interview. How much is there an international language of street art and how easily do specific cultural issues of a certain country speak through that language I really think street art could be a good way of connecting different cultures to each other, it could be a matter of problems going on in that country or just a regular street art performance. All the street artists around the world are very much alike, in their lifestyle or in the way they think and see things.
How did your recent exhibition on Tehran go
It was great. We had plenty of visitors and we got to know a lot of new people and artists and they got to know us as well . It was a huge success and we even had a few foreign visitors
How optimistic are you about the future of Iran
We hope someday there will be freedom of expression and democracy like other places in the world.
What is the dream for the two of you
To work and exhibit all over the globe, and show our artwork to the people of the world and to be influential.