this was the interview that wasn't supposed to happen. no, no ... not because a1one (pronounced: ə-lōn') is iranian and we got caught up in some crazy international diplomatic scandal. not because we were running late, or even because we had expended all of our ezine karma on previous interviews. rather, the interview was actually a front for our own guerilla artistic intervention. and when the request for an interview went through - we got to have our cake and scribble on the wall as well.

and indeed, what a tasty cake it was. as an ezine that supports facial hair, we were blown away with a1one. this man has serious moustache action going on. but some background first. many months ago we thought it would be a great idea to interview an Iranian street artist – so turning to our trusty google, we located kolah studio and sent an email requesting an interview. we got a response, but we weren’t sure that our initial request had been understood – so we left it.

until the melbourne stencil festival ’08 turned up. and we noticed that there was a street artist from iran. interesting, we thought, let’s go check this out. skipping over the details of the intervention, it turns out that a1one, the street artist from iran, was indeed the artist running kolah studio. small world indeed. and tasty cake.

the remarkable thing is that a1one is practically the entire Iranian street art scene. all by himself. and it’s a humbling thought.

how long have you been doing stencil and street art? a1one: the first time i did something in the street wasn’t street art, it was a painting on a wall. but the first time that i tried something with social meaning – which is what i want from my street art – was six years ago. i did it in my university. it was a munch. you know munch’s the scream? it was something to challenge the university officers. but from that time, i’ve loved stencils. and i just started to work more and more until i became addicted. i hope that when i become older i will calm down.
why do you want to calm down? mmm … because it’s not good to be addicted. it’s not something that i’ve solved yet. i hope one day i can find a solution for this. it takes a lot of money. completely a lot of money. and when you are addicted you take from your home … you know you need milk and bread … but you are just buying cans. paint is expensive, other material is expensive and your clothes always get dirty – it all costs a lot.

you’ve mentioned before in previous interviews that there’s maybe 10 other people doing street art in iran – are they together in a crew, or is there an emerging community? you know when you say this, i just think that you imagine some streets like here [in melbourne] – but it’s not like this. there are some crews, but they just email you – “we have a crew, do you join us?” and they haven’t even started graffiti. so i don’t think that there is much to talk about.

is there a message that you explore through your work? hmm, i … you know most of my influences come from seeing pain. and even i call some of my paintings as pain-tings. things coming from pain. i don’t know why it’s like this, but i want to say … just express, you know, the sudden feeling when i see the news and then i want to represent it in my own way. this is what i like. i don’t use, for example, philosophy books to have a big aim. i just express myself and i can even say, on a lower level, that i just have fun. its true!

how frequently do you go out – and i assume, only at night? completely. 100%. i just did one in the morning, a little one, and i chose the place that nobody was in the street. it’s completely dangerous – but there’s another reason that is more logical. the spray(can) was a tool for the Iranian revolution, some twenty-five or thirty years ago. so it’s completely understandable if most people – most adult people – see it as a revolutionary tool. they think it’s just for politics – nobody else uses spraycans on wall for anything else, or more than politics.
ah, so spraycans since the revolution have been understood as a political tool? yes. even in my exhibition [in tehran] someone came, he was completely like an islamic person. he said to me that “i’m your predecessor. i even feel the tip of a finger that is completely black and dirty [from spray] and i like it.” he was about fifty years old and i really shook his hand because people who know the love of the “psst, psst” [of the paint from the can.] you know he was a completely islamic person who took part of the revolution, and right now i am someone out of this system. they don’t accept me as some iranian who is fitting in to this society, at least in this government. but that person was someone who fits in the government. but he completely feels me, and i completely feel him. it was a great moment for me – i just wanted to tell you.
does it happen often? this thing? this was the first and last time.

adi then popped his head in to the room and we got fed some apricot chicken.

you’ve mentioned in other interviews that graffiti is not illegal in iran… actually, its not even discussed by the law. but spraying or any public show without governmental permission is illegal and so spraying a wall without permission from the government or city council is illegal. we’ve got a saying that “being young is illegal in iran.”
you said that there is a very heavy police presence in iran. have you ever been caught? yeah i have, but two times i escaped from the arrest – because i had no other choice. and one time i paid money to the police officer to take it easy, so never been in jail yet. the police are not serious about what they do!
i think in my country they are not ready … they are not ready for this type of funny way of crime. you know, because when they take you, you talk to them more polite than a criminal and you can talk about museums and other things and they take it easy and walk with you which gives you time to escape. because they pay much respect to you.

spot on. much respect to a1one.

you can check out his work here here, some other interviews here, here and here.

want more iranian graff? right here

props to adi of for the apricot chicken and arranging the interview.