London-based Kurdish artist, Tishk Barzanji practises a highly observational form of artistic expression, often finding lightness in otherwise dark or brutal places. It’s almost scientific – as though he’s pulled a microscope over the intangible – feelings, experiences, fleeting moments... His work is created through a combination of painting and then digital editing – two mediums the artist feels can coexist well due to the different roles they have to play in the classical and social realms of the art world. Inspired by ancient history, the modernist movements and his experiences since moving to London in 1997, Tishk’s artistry gives a visual representation of the meticulous research and documenting of his surroundings. He describes his illustrations as modern surrealism, saying escapism is a common theme across his work.
“It could be a sentence someone says or a line in a book that nurtures my imagination to create a piece. I take walks to analyse shadows and lights and document small details I see on the street. I'm fascinated by how people live and how they communicate. The way we live in this 24-hour connectivity and the way architecture leads the way we use space. Surrealism helps to connect this idea by showing a glimpse of my imagination. I spent two years analysing how people use space; whether in stations, theatres or even parks. I documented every movement in a diary; the small descriptions took me back to that moment. I used this to build the narrative in my work.”
There is a wonderful whimsy to his work; an imagination that is simultaneously childlike and sophisticated in complexity and originality. Many of the scenes depicted by Tishk, we learned, are influenced by residual childhood memories – “Small details I remember; from my bedroom, the sunlight was bright and low. It created patterns on my bedroom floor and these details were always on my mind so it was natural to use it in my work.”
He also makes several allusions to brutalist architecture. One particular building that stood out to us was the Trellick Tower, of which Tishk has depicted in quite a few different iterations.
We took particular interest in this because it’s such an iconic structure in our pocket of west London – the subject of many local artists, even a haven for some local artisans. Tishk’s illustrations of Trellick are truly unique. Asked about this he replied, “Brutalism really speaks to my struggles. It gave me comfort during dark times even though it is seen as ‘ugly’. I grew up in a brutalist estate, I saw some amazing souls. I wanted to bring light to these spaces and people. Trellick stood out to me, because it's isolated in terms of structure in the surroundings. I saw all these levels, different lives and characters of people living there. I saw it like a utopia, so it was a place I often revisited.”
Having collaborated with the likes of Wallpaper*, and more recently Film4 and Somerset House, Tishk seems to be ramping up, telling us about future plans to collaborate with an architect or interior designer so as to realise his illustrative art in more of a 3D format. Definitely keep an eye out for this shrewd creative – we can’t wait to see what he comes up with!
Tishk Barzanji: tishkbarzanji.co.uk