Harmony Day: Celebrating Cultural Diversity

We are going to celebrate Harmony Day through Iranian Australian Artist Abbas Mehran whom we can also proudly call a Victorian as he has chosen to live in the Gippsland town of Morwell.

Morwell-based artist Abbas Mehran drinks tea in his home. Credit: Anne Simmons

When we explore the website of Abbas Mehran (link provided below) we learn that:

Mehran’s paintings are inspired by the Persian culture. They are colourful, life-inspiring, and reflect his diverse life and cultural experiences.

I can't think of a better Australian artist to represent our blog on Harmony Day. His painting Connection says it all.

Connection by Abbas Mahran (abbasmehran.com)

Iranian born Abbas Mehran first worked as an auditor in a Miami (Florida) bank while painting as a hobby. Eventually he ended up in Australia with qualifications in painting and the visual arts.

From 1993 until 2014, Abbas was intensely involved in study, research and creation of many culturally and aesthetically rich paintings, prints and murals, exhibiting widely in Australia and abroad, and winning many awards and prizes, including first painting prize at Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize in 2003. (abbasmehran.com)

Here is his winning painting - On Guard.

On Guard by Abbas Mehran (abbasmehran.com)

When you look at an Abbas Mehran painting you are greeted by a feast of colour and vibrancy which arises from his passion to use his artistic gift to help others. Today we will look at Abbas' murals and some paintings which are embedded with the diversity of cultural elements.

First we will look at Abbas Mehran's involvement with Sunrise Cambodia an orphange established in the 1990s by Geraldine Cox OAM and continues focusing on Cambodia’s most vulnerable children and the communities in which they live. (sunrisecambodia.org.au)

Abbas' involvement with Sunrise Cambodia began several years ago when he twice visited Cambodia to teach and encourage the children to draw and paint. (abbasmehran.com)

By Abbas Mehran (abbasmehrab.com)

In Cambodia he painted (with the children helping) a large mural around the music building.

(Credit: abbasmehan.com)

While in Cambodia Abbas painted many portraits of the children which you can view through this bookmark.

Cambodian Children | Portraits by Abbas Mehran - Art, Life and Culture
Art to Support Cambodian Children, beautiful portraits of children by Iranian Australian Artist Abbas Mehran for sale to support Sunrise Cambodia

And you can read more about Abbas' work in Cambodia by following this link.

Art for a better Cambodia.
Talented Boolarra artist, Abbas Mehran, is applying his artistic talents to aid underprivileged Cambodians.

Abbas Mehran has also been involved in Mural Painting in China where he created the Dunhuang Cave Mural. As Abbas said: One should be crazy enough to go voluntarily to the desert of Dunhuang in China and live and paint in a cave. In 2008, I learned that Chang Jiahuang, a famous artist in China, has invited other artists to go to Dunhuang and paint in the newly made caves.

The caves have been handmade by Chang Jiahuang and his parents and are designed to provide a public space for artists to create artworks for our present and future generations.

Below are a couple of photos of the mural which Abbas sadly has been unable to complete due to personal reasons.

There are many multi-cultural features in the mural Abbas has begun including
large portraits of twelve Australian children from diverse cultural backgrounds. Here are six of the portraits.

Check out more of these delightful portraits below.

Multicultural Children Portraits | Artist Abbas Mehran - Art, Life and Culture
Series of portraits of beautiful children from cross-culltural diverse families, or inter-ratcial children painted by Iranian Australian Artist Abbas Mehran

In Mehran's on-line gallery there is a complete section dedicated to Cross Cultural Paintings which reflect (in Abbas' words):
the beauty of the human differences. As the natural world is diverse, so is the human world. It has gone the time when racism and cultural prejudice were signs of national and identity pride and distinction. Now is the time for living together and respecting diversity. (abbasmehran.com)

For the Moment by Abbas Mehran

Abbas Mehran explains:
In making culturally diverse paintings, I do not attempt to claim being a bridge-maker between cultures. There are significant amounts of discussions and scholarly articles about cross-cultural arts, and how arts can be used to bridge cultural differences, but as far as I understand, cultural differences are not something that could be easily bridged by imitation, reworking, or recycling of other visual cultures. Most artists somehow become fascinated by other cultures’ visual expressions, and consciously or unconsciously attempt to use some visual elements from those cultures. They simply want to experiment something different, or they want to incorporate new information (patterns, text, icons, or any other forms) in their work in order to enrich the content of their work. (abbasmehran.com)

Check out his cross-cultural paintings by following this link.

Cross-cultural Paintings | Express, Respect Diversity - Art, Life and Culture
Abbas Mehran’s Cross-cultural Paintings, reflect his diverse cultural experiences living in Iran, Argentina, USA, Australia, respecting cultural differences

But my favourite Abbas Mehran creations are his Self-escape Paintings which exemplify the artist's cultural diversity having lived in so many different countries.

Since my arrival into my new home, I have become fascinated by the beauty, wealth and diversity of its landscapes. I have not been able to resist my desire to tackle a series of landscape paintings. Interestingly, my sudden interest in landscape painting quickly led to an exciting and challenging experimental initiative, where the imagery from my Iranian cultural heritage kept interfering and wanting to intermix within the painted natural scenery. This resulted in an exhilarating creative endeavour, by which new landscapes are being created from two apparently incompatible visual art disciplines. Upon reflecting on my new work, I realised that these landscapes are in fact my own self portraits, so I called them Self-escape Paintings, which in reality they are cross-cultural. (abbasmehran.com)

Thse paintings are exquisite.

Poetry Reading by Abbas Mehran

Please take the time to check out more Self-escape Paintings by this incredible artist.

Selfscape |Hybrid Landscape Paintings Reflecting Fragmented Landscapes As A Self
A series of landscape paintings, selfscape paintings are expression of adapting to a new place and remembering what has been lost from the past

When Mehran first came to Australia he lived in Adelaide. After 16 years he moved to the small town of Boolarra in Gippsland, Victoria. He was asked by a local shop keeper to paint a mural of the wall beside the shop. Abbas explains:

I wanted the mural to represent some elements of the town’s past, present, and future.... I learned that this community had been involved in three major activities: butter factory, timber mill, and railroad. The Boolarra Historical Society provided me with images and information regarding the Boolarra’s history. Local primary School introduced two young children, representing future, and I took pictures of two cows to represent the present. (abbasMehran.com)

Boolarra Mural by Abbas Mehran (Credit: abbasmehran.com)

Conclude our recognition of Harmony day by reading Anne Simmons short article on Abbas Mehran father of Marsha Mehran an international bestseller novelist including Pomegranate Soup who tragically died in 2014.

Abbas set himself the task of finishing a book she had started, The Margaret Thatcher School of Beauty set in Argentina where the family lived for some time after they left Iran at the time of the revolution.

Infusing art with Persian-influence
Iranian-born artist Abbas Mehran’s back shed looks out to his yard where a vegetable garden starts to take shape and some red chillies are having a second go at sun-drying after some unsuspected rain.

Thank you Abbas Mehran for bringing your view of the world to us and for showing us that embracing cultural diversity makes us all stronger. You are one of Australia's living treasures.