At Unlimited we are used to working with disabled artists who face a whole range of physical and attitudinal barriers due to their impairments. New to us was working with a migrant disabled artist – who has faced a barrage of additional barriers to practising his art.
Mohammad Barrangi Fashtami is an illustrator and artist, originally from Iran, and now based in London. Between 2017 and September 2019 he was based at The Art House in Wakefield, and was recipient of the Studio of Sanctuary residency programme, an initiative that supports artists who are refugee and asylum seekers to continue their artistic practice and gain an understanding of the cultural context of the UK. Check out his Instagram account to see great images of his work.
Hailing from Iran, Mo’s work has been seen around the world – Ukraine, Colombia, Russia and Tokyo to name but a few countries. As both an artist and a Paralympian, Mo is no stranger to overcoming barriers and so is going large’ with his work in October, placing a large mural which will be visible 24/7 at the rear of the Union Works building in Wakefield.
Mohammad’s new piece for Wakefield will be a reminder of the time he spent in Wakefield, before starting his studies at The Royal Drawing School in London. The piece uses birds to symbolise movement, freedom and companionship. Mo takes inspiration from street-artists such as JR, who use photocopiers to blow-up their images onto a much larger scale. Mohammad’s work starts from a simple dip-pen drawing, or calligraphy, which is then digitised, montages and reprinted in a different scale. This piece will be the largest work produced by Mo, following on from a mural produced at a Tate Exchange evening in London in 2018, and a chance to build on his current approach to producing large scale work.
Mo says ‘There are Farsi type and Iranian elements in my works. Showing the Eastern mood is my passion. My imagination about the East is so powerful – each artist can create his or her personal style regarding his or her personal experiences. It’s beautiful for me to show the Eastern mood through the combination of Persian type with Eastern elements which are contemporary people’s believes. Showing this mood that I am currently living in, motivates visitors to have a new look into the East.’
Mo’s work centres on experiences of travel, journeys and also his disability. His works often contain images of animals such as birds, reptiles and mythical creatures to talk about migration and different experiences of this world. He combines Eastern styles of calligraphy and collage with Western compositions or scenes from European classical paintings to create new layers and meanings.
We are delighted to report that Mo has been given leave to remain, which should make his life in the UK and his life as an artist much simpler in the future. If you want to know more and support migrant cultural workers, check out Migrants in Culture, a support network and action group that holds the cultural sector accountable to migrants, citizens of colour and all other people being impacted by the immigration regime, in our workplaces and neighbourhoods.
The ‘hostile environment’ is real. We have experienced it first hand in trying to support Mo’s work through an original partnership where the fear of local politics and reactions made the project stall. We are delighted to have found new ways to promote Mo and his work through our allies and friends in Yorkshire.
Why not come along to Colchester this Thursday (10 October) to Unlimited Connects to hear more from Mo as both a panellist and pitcher at our event at Firstsite, linking disabled artists and art sector representatives? Book here.