In our Q&A with Pouran Jinchi, we talk about her calligraphy works in their abstract form, her Ritual Imprint series and how her life experiences have made their way into her art: “a series of influences woven from the past and present that luckily sometimes align into a concept.” Through Jinchi’s works, she shows an extraordinary capacity to take the subject out of its context and work with its essence using different methods, form and material. She shows the subject matter in its own light, away from any layers of illusions, stories or controversy that may be surrounding it. Pouran Jinchi is also very supportive of the arts and we are very lucky to have her on board as one of Caspian Arts Foundation’s contributing artists this year.
NM: Did you always know you wanted to use calligraphy as a main form of expression in your work?
PJ: I studied calligraphy as a child and I had no idea it would make its way into my art. Its fascinating to see how many of life experiences influence your relationship to art.
NM: What was the transformation that took you away from traditional calligraphy into a more abstract one. Was this a gradual process or did you just instinctively know that this was the direction you wanted to move towards?
PJ: I think when you love something and you explore it in depth, you start seeing it in many different ways. The process has been both gradual and instinctive at different periods. Language has so much of an impact on how we as people express ourselves both written and spoken. Thus by interpreting it differently I think it allows for new questions and possibilities. I believe this could apply to many subjects not just necessarily arts.
NM: I read in an article some time ago that you do not like to reveal the source of the poetry you use (Entropy series). First of all is this true? Why have you kept it a mystery?
PJ: In the Entropy series I feel it is as much about the motion I was trying to portray and I really wanted the audience to bring their own experience and inspiration to the work. The message of that piece for me goes beyond the source material and that work was never meant to be so literal.
NM: How do you approach each of your projects in the sense that do you take the time to find it or does that inspiration seem to find its way to you?
PJ: I’ve found that process very relational. It is never really one thing or a specific time that I can point to but often a series of influences woven from the past and present that luckily sometimes align into a concept. It is not hard for me to be inspired but pulling together and executing a concept is a wonderful challenge to have.
NM: I’d like to speak about the Ritual Imprint works. I’m curious to know what drew you to the subject matter, and why you chose to use the ‘mohr’ for these works?
PJ: I was born in Mashad, a very religious city and ‘mohr’ was sold to pilgrims who visited Imam Reza shrine. I learned about Mohr as my grandmother would take me to the shrine and that experience has made its way into my work.
NM: The Muslim prayer tablet is also made out of clay, so there is this element of working with natural products made from the earth. Do you bring this aspect in to your creative process at all?
PJ: During the ritual of prayer one places their forehead on mohr during prayer and kisses mohr upon finishing prayer. Mohr is really earth and it is a connection that a believer makes to earth in my understanding of the ritual. The use of mohr is a very intimate experience and I wanted to incorporate that physical relationship in this work by rubbings, made by scratching charcoal on paper.
NM: One of the qualities I am drawn to in the Ritual series is that they have a very calming effect. Not only the way the shapes and letters are formed together but also the materials used. The subject matter is quite serious but then you use this thin paper giving it a ‘Japanese’ or asian feel. For some reason, this lightens the original meaning and we are simply drawn to the letters itself and the way they are formed around one another. Is this your intention?
PJ: I was trying to imagine drawing a prayer in a way that is supposed to make one feel, the repetition and the peacefulness. Of course, I had to draw from my own experience, which could be a different ritual for someone else but with the same purpose.
NM: I find ‘Noon 04’ unusually striking. I feel a connection to many spiritual images when looking at it such Gustave Dorè’s, ‘Celestial Rose’ and even the Chinese version of the Divine Metaphysics, the IChing. These works have clearly transcended their origin and become universal in the imagery and form they now take. How do you relate to them? Is this what you want to evoke in your audience?
PJ: Its never been my goal to elicit or evoke an audience in a given way with my work. I wish I could have that kind of power. What I put into my relationship to a piece is the hope that an audience will find something to relate to and I love to hear people who can articulate their perspective better than I can.
NM: I admire how your work has moved away from the controversial nature of the subject matter and rather explores the different ideas and possibilities, portraying them in their element. If we take the ‘Fabricated’ series or the prayer tablet, these could be considered as controversial. But then you have moved away from any seriousness or heaviness associated with it and moved into a celebration of art, poetry, colour and the coming together of cultures. Am I right to think this or am I totally off track!? What are your thoughts on this?
PJ: Controversy does not interest me and I try to keep it out of my subject matter. Some ideas are laden with controversy by nature and I enjoy challenging my subject matter by not focusing on the controversy of the concept.
NM: Are there any series or works in particular that stand out in your memory. Perhaps one you had a challenging time with or one you really loved?
PJ: There are yes… but so much of that has to do with factors in my actual life not just the work. So my struggles, family and friends often surround my work and make it difficult to see which was the bigger influence or challenge during a specific piece or series.
NM: Congratulations on Metropolitan Museum recently acquiring one of your more recent works for their permanent collection. Is there anything you are working on now?
PJ: Thank you. Yes, right now I am working on a new series for an exhibition at The Third Line in Dubai 2013. My subject is ‘transparency’ and the text I am using is an old script from a cylinder dating back to 6th century BC known as Cyrus charter of human rights.
NM: Will you be exhibiting in London any time soon?
PJ: I exhibited at Frieze art fair in London last year and I loved it there. Hopefully my work will bring me back to London soon.
( All images courtesy of the artist and The Third Line)
Pouran Jinchi first studied Engineering at George Washington University, Washington D.C. in 1982 before taking up painting at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1989 then followed by studio painting at the Art Students League in New York in 1993.
Jinchi has exhibited extensively and has had eight solo exhibitions in New York alone. She has exhibited internationally with shows in Japan and Germany and is featured in public collections including the Federal Reserve Bank, New York, The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. and the Brooklyn Museum, New York. Pouran Jinchi currently lives and works in New York.
Click here to read Pouran Jinchi’s full biography.