Refugee artist finds his connection

Amir Tehrani''s work Thread 1, which features in the HOME exhibition.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

The need for connection – it’s something that struck Dandenong North artist Amir Tehrani hard when he fled Iran to Australia five years ago.

Mr Tehrani is one of six asylum seekers and refugees selected to showcase their works at the City of Greater Dandenong’s HOME art exhibition.

“When I arrived here we had lots of problems in communicating with people.

“Different language, culture, ideas around the world – it makes people far away from each other.”

One of his featured works Thread 1 graphically shows the ‘threads’ of connection.

“It explores the idea of trying to find and stay connected while there are pressures tugging at the threads to pull us apart and fray these connections.”

The former architect fled Iran and a comfortable lifestyle with his mother and wife due to threats to his personal safety.

“I was in trouble with the government. In my country, you have to be quiet about lots of things like the regulations and rules of the government.”

Mr Tehrani, his wife and his mother took a treacherous but incident-free journey by boat to Australia.

At first out of sheer boredom during detention on Christmas Island, Mr Tehrani started drawing and painting for the first time since he was a child.

When he settled on the mainland, he found his architectural experience came to nought.

To practise as an architect, he needed to study again from scratch, followed by an internship. That would have taken about 10 years.

“It was hard for us at first. Even though we get a lot of help, it was hard to survive.”

So instead Mr Tehrani is studying art at Swinburne University, while working several part-time jobs to support his family.

He found that art connected across culture, language and religion.

It was a way for him to express – whether it was social commentary or capturing a mood through vibrant abstract colour and texture.

“Art doesn’t need language. Everyone who communicates with art doesn’t have that boundary.”

HOME is open at Walker Street Gallery, Dandenong from 18 October-24 November.

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