Zahra Entezari is a visual artist hailing from Shiraz, Iran, who now calls Calgary, Canada her home since 2018. With an impressive 25-year journey in the world of art, Zahra's expertise spans across painting, photography, and art instruction, with a particular fondness for oil and pastel mediums. Her work is a mesmerizing exploration of landscapes, where nature stands as a perpetual muse, guiding her artistic vision through the interplay of light and colour.
Zahra's artistic journey is deeply rooted in her lifelong passion for painting and drawing, which found its early beginnings in her childhood. Over the years, she has earned numerous prestigious art awards and exhibited her creations at various renowned platforms. In 1999, alongside her husband, she established a notable visual art institution in her hometown of Shiraz, where they shared their knowledge and love for painting and photography with a diverse array of students, garnering recognition in national and provincial festivals.
Following her move to Calgary in 2018, Zahra has been dedicated to evolving her artistry and establishing herself in her new artistic community. This transition involved honing her English skills, expanding her professional network, and initiating home-based art classes, further bolstering her presence in the local art scene. In 2022, Zahra's works were showcased at 'Arts Commons' in Calgary, and in 2023, she took part in a group exhibition at 'Three Sisters Gallery' in Canmore. Currently, she is eagerly anticipating her upcoming solo exhibition at the Central Library, organized by the ICAI. In recognition of her exceptional contributions to the field of Art & Culture, Zahra received the prestigious 'Immigrant Distinction Award' in Calgary in 2022. Her journey as an artist continues to evolve, intertwining her roots from Iran with her blossoming artistic presence in Canada, where she paints her unique vision of the world, connecting with both her homeland and her new home.
Your art has been influenced by both your Iranian heritage and your new Canadian surroundings. How do these contrasting environments influence your art, and what role do these cultural backgrounds play in your artistic journey?
Z: I find that the convergence of these two distinct cultures significantly shapes my art. My Iranian heritage, deeply rooted in my upbringing, exerts a profound influence on my work, as well as the strong connection I have with my family. Simultaneously, my immersion in the Canadian culture as my new home community has also left a marked impression on my art. In fact, I consider it a unique opportunity to blend elements from these contrasting backgrounds in my artistic endeavours.
I truly believe that this dynamic interplay enriches my artwork. It's not about one culture overshadowing the other; rather, I strive to harmoniously combine the essence of both.
My Iranian heritage forms the bedrock of my artistic vision, but it's also complemented by the fresh perspectives and experiences I've gained from Canadian culture.
This fusion creates a dynamic synergy, enhancing my artwork and enabling me to reach a wider audience. Ultimately, I see the coexistence of these two cultures as a powerful catalyst for artistic growth.
Nature and landscapes seem to be a recurring theme in your artwork. What about these elements fascinates you and fuels your creative process?
Z: As you're aware, the natural world is of utmost importance in both my photography and painting. The captivating beauty of landscapes and the wonders of nature exert a profound influence on my work and my overall perception. These elements are integral to my artistic expression.
In nature, I discover elements such as resilience, fragility, and the interplay of light and colour, all of which deeply shape my artistic expression.
This connection may stem from my deep-seated affinity for nature; it's in the great outdoors where I truly feel at one with the world. I derive immense joy from observing the ever-changing details of nature, and each nuance plays a significant role in shaping my work.
For me, this is a conscious effort to strengthen my bond with the natural world. I firmly believe that it's crucial for everyone to recognize that humanity isn't the centre of the planet, but a part of it.
We're not the focal point of the universe either. This realization underscores the importance of caring for our environment, regardless of where we reside, be it Canada, Iran, or any other part of the globe. I strive to use my art as a vehicle for advocating better stewardship of nature, aiming to inspire people to become more mindful of our environment.
My initial encounter with Canada left an indelible mark on me, primarily due to its stunning natural landscapes. Canada boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth, and it was here that I was first profoundly affected by the beauty of the natural world.
I see my role as an artist as a bridge-builder, connecting my vision, understanding, and emotional connection to nature with my viewers, in the hope that it fosters a deeper appreciation for our environment.
You've received the 'Immigrant Distinction Award' in the realm of 'Art & Culture' in Calgary, Canada. Could you share more about this recognition and its impact on your career and art?
Z: Receiving the 'Immigrant Distinction Award' was an incredibly significant achievement in my artistic endeavours. I feel deeply honoured and proud to have been chosen for this recognition. It all began during the initial stages of the pandemic when many people were confined to their homes. A friend of mine suggested I offer online painting and drawing classes to senior immigrants served by Migrant Services Calgary. My experience as a volunteer instructor during these classes was truly remarkable.
Through this, I not only shared my knowledge about art with a wonderful audience, but I also received their love, passion, and unwavering support.
Witnessing their remarkable progress and development was truly heartening and served as a personal milestone. It was a novel experience for me, as I had never previously conducted online classes, and I was pleasantly surprised by how effectively people could learn and engage in art through their computers.
Subsequently, my manager nominated me for this distinguished award. Even before receiving the award, being selected as a finalist was a validation of my art and its impact on my new community. This recognition is of immense value to me.
It serves as a source of motivation, driving me to continually enhance my art and expand my contributions to society.
I feel an increased sense of responsibility toward serving my community and am constantly on the lookout for opportunities to share my art and knowledge with my audience.
Throughout your 25-year career, you’ve favoured working with oil and pastel. What attracts you to these mediums, and how do they help you express your artistic vision?
Z: Oil paints have a remarkable appeal due to their flexibility and the vast spectrum of colours they offer. The sheer diversity in the colour palette, with the ability to create countless shades, is a distinct advantage.
For instance, with just a few different greens, you can achieve a hundred more shades and create a remarkable range of colours. Additionally, the depth and richness of colours that oil paints deliver play a pivotal role in my work.
These choices, in terms of materials, have become an integral part of my artistic journey, allowing me to articulate my creative vision with precision and depth.
On the other hand, pastels hold a special place in my heart for their unique texture, which can be described as velvety. This particular texture lends itself exceptionally well to the creation of portraits and floral art. It's the tactile quality of pastels that makes them a favoured choice. Alongside oil pastels, I also employ chalk and pastel pencils for certain drawing projects.
Your artworks have been exhibited in Iran and in various venues in Calgary, Alberta. Could you share memorable experiences from these exhibitions and how have they influenced your artistic journey in both countries?
Z: In these exhibitions, I had the privilege of engaging with diverse audiences and receiving an abundance of heartwarming comments. For an artist, every exhibition marks a new opportunity for growth and development. I firmly believe that each exhibition I've had in both Iran and Canada has served as a source of encouragement and motivation, propelling me to refine my artistic craft.
Through these exhibitions, I hope to provide my audience with a fresh perspective and a glimpse into another world.
One poignant memory from a viewer stands out in particular. A member of my audience shared her excitement, revealing that, while she had always loved art and enjoyed visiting exhibitions, my work had inspired her to embark on her own artistic journey. This revelation was deeply rewarding for me, underscoring the profound impact that art can have on its viewers.
Upon immigrating to Canada, I faced the challenge of establishing myself and my art in a new country. Building connections and finding venues to exhibit one's work can be a daunting task. However, with the support of organizations like ICAI, I had the opportunity to showcase some of my pieces for the first time last year at Art Commons. It was an exhilarating experience and marked the beginning of a promising journey in Canada.
Being an artist is a demanding endeavour worldwide, and for immigrant artists, the challenges can be even more formidable.
Many artists find themselves compelled to work in fields other than their art. I hope that organizations like ICAI can continue to offer support to immigrant artists, facilitating meaningful connections between artists and their audiences. Workshops and exhibitions play a pivotal role in nurturing this essential relationship between artists and the wider community.
What are some exciting developments we can expect from your work in the future?
Z: I'm currently working on a new project that involves some innovative approaches, and I'm eager to share the results in the coming month. This project is centred around nature once again, although from a different perspective. While I can't reveal all the details just yet, I'm enthusiastic about the progress and look forward to presenting the developments to you soon.