By Faten Omar
Den Gallery at Crystal Tower in Kuwait City is hosting the “Forty-Three Narrative Portraits” exhibition of Iranian artist Reza Doust. The exhibition started from April 19, featuring 43 paintings by the artist, telling the story of his life. Doust, who is based in Canada, lived in Kuwait from 1993 with his family. “I have a long history in Kuwait. In 1994, I held my first exhibition at Boushahri Art Gallery; since then almost every year I have an exhibition in the country,” he said.
“Kuwait is my second home. My father was from the south of Iran, and I felt Kuwait was similar to my hometown. I moved to Canada in 1998, but I still have lots of friends and family here. People are still inviting me to their homes,” he added. Doust holds exhibitions annually and art workshops for young people of Kuwait in appreciation for the community. “I feel I have to give something to the society – only then I will get something back.”
His love of Kuwait is reflected in his sketchbook. “Today I spent six hours in Souq Al-Mubarakiya. I did not only draw the buildings, but also people who work there. This makes me feel like I belong to the society; I don’t feel like a foreigner – I feel like I’m one of them,” he pointed out.
The collection of paintings at the exhibition is about a young girl, inspired by the work of Mirza Ali of the Safavid Golden Age (16th Century).The “beautiful girl” is an image that marks the beginning of the artist’s career at the age of eight. “When I was 8 years old, I was working at handicraft shop. The girl in the artwork of Mirza Ali inspired me to mix that beautiful face with my personal experience.
Despite my long experience in art, I still struggle to draw that face as beautifully as I saw her. In 2017, when I had an exhibition in Iran, I saw that they had demolished my old house.That is when I started my project of painting the same girl in my own style. I try to represent today’s life,” Doust said.
The idea of executing this series came to him when he revisited his old neighborhood after years and saw that the house where he was born and which held all his childhood memories was bulldozed.The collection of 43 different pictures of a young girl is part of his memory and a random conversation with himself about the 50 years of his constant experience.
“The girl represents my hometown. I was experimenting with all the knowledge I have in Islamic design and Persian classic art and mixed them in those paintings. I used the carpet image because I talk about my hometown, as carpets are the most widespread handicraft in Iran. In some paintings, my face will be over hers because the portraits are telling my personal story,” he said. Doust revealed that in his next exhibition next season, he may include some sketches he made in Kuwait.