Friday, January 1, 2021

GAS Featured Artist: Soheyl Dahi


Soheyl Dahi was born in Iran in a small town on the shores of Caspian Sea. After graduating from University of Leeds in England, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1979. He has published several books of poetry and a volume of short stories through Bottle of Smoke Press in New York. He now writes and paints full time. Soheyl has won awards and exhibited his paintings nationally. A new website featuring his paintings is under construction.

1) I've known you as a poet since the late 80s, when did you start painting and what inspired you to do so?

SD: Writing and painting came to me at the same time. At a young age, I realized very quickly that my escape route from my unhappy childhood in Iran was going to be paved through the arts. So a lot of my time was spent in my room drawing or writing. 
As a writer and painter I am largely self-taught -- other than 3-4 art classes at San Francisco Art Institute, I have no formal art training. But I have been studying art history and painting on my own quite seriously for the past 30 years or so. Every day that I paint, I'm confronted with the fact that there is so much more to learn.

2) What is your medium?  Do you only paint on paper you have made? 

SD: I started with oil paint but like many artists I switched to acrylic paint. My work is small in size, about 8x11 inches. I mostly use hand-made paper imported from Kathmandu, Nepal. The paper is uneven and somewhat fragile which to me mirrors real life -- now more than ever. 

3) Which artists are an influence on you?

SD: My interest in art is wide open. I appreciate artists as varied as Emil Nolde to Cy Twombly and everything in between. The work has to speak to me at some deep level. One of the early painters that fascinated me was Francis Bacon. His figures, always situated inside a small room, touched me a great deal. Years later, I finally saw his masterpiece, Painting, 1946 at NY MOMA. I think I stood in front of it like an hour and studied every brush stroke. Nolde has been a great source of inspiration especially nowadays since I am working a lot on land/seascapes. I am also influenced by the painters in the school that became known as the Bay Area Figurative. I think geography had something to do with it since I have lived in the Bay Area (mostly San Francisco) since 1979. Their use of bright colors which must have been shocking at the time (1950s) liberated my palette. Elmer Bischoff, David Park, James Weeks and others were all artists that I have been able to see and study their works often.

4) Do you ever write poems to go with your paintings?  If so, an example...

I don't. I see the two activities as totally separate. But someone like Lawrence Ferlinghetti can pull it off successfully (most of the time) and I'm fine with it when I see it done well by other artists. 

The Day After

California Burning


A slideshow of Soheyl's work is presented in GAS 10.  Also one of his paintings was used as the thumbnail for the show on YouTube. 
View it here:  Soheyl Dahi's slide show.  The accompanying music is by Emocat (Heidi Blakeslee who interviews poetry books on this blog).~Belinda Subraman

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