The Artwork of Alireza Shojaian
Born in Tehran in September of 1988, Alireza Shojaian is an Iranian artist. Shojaian received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Tehran’s Islamic Azad University in 2014. Encouraged in his art studies by one of his professors, he began to explore his queer identity in his work through themes and narratives. Shojaian pursued his Masters of Fine Arts for two years at the Islamic Azad University; however, as his final thesis project was queer art, he was denied his degree.
In 2015, Shojaian’s artwork, the majority of which were prints, appeared in several group exhibitions in Tehran including shows at Laleh Art Gallery and Vista Art Gallery. He also exhibited work at the 2015 Printmaking Exhibition held at the Cultural Section of the Embassy of Cote d’Ivoire.
The prevalent theme in Alireza Shojaian’s work is homosexuality in both identity and relationships. His work reflects on his own personal experiences as a queer person and the queer history of western Asia and its context in present society. Created with acrylics and color pencils, Shojaian’s images depict male figures, most often nude, in both portrait form and group presentations. His drawings present intimate relationships, often entwined and embracing, sometimes fighting; however, they all attempt to present real stories that are mutual to all human beings. Through his art, Shojaian attempts to fight societal prejudice against LGBTQ people and make space for non-heteronormative masculine identities.
Unable to exhibit work dealing with issues affecting the queer community in an open dialogue with the Iranian people, Shojaian relocated in 2016 to Beirut, Lebanon, as a place with more freedom to develop his art and identity. His university professor in Tehran, who knew of Shojaian’s sexual orientation, connected him with the owner of the ArtLab Gallery in Beirut, Antoine Haddad, who offered him a solo show. Shojaian entered the Beirut art scene with two solo exhibitions at the Artlab Gallery: the 2017 “Corpe à Corps” and “Sweet Blasphemy” held in 2018.
The title for the “Sweet Blasphemy” exhibition was taken from Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s novel entitled “The Forty Rules of Love”. This exhibition was centered on the love story of Persian poet Jalai ad-Din Muhammed Rumi and fellow poet Shams-i-Tabrizi. After years living together in the Turkish city of Konya, Shams left Rumi, who after Sham’s untimely death dedicated his writings to his departed lover. The main image of the show consisted of a partially nude male figure, either asleep or dead, lying on a white blanket. Eight additional drawings, all modeled by Lebanese artist Mo Khansa, were included in the highly successful sold-out show.
Alireza Shojaian exhibited his work at the Beirut Art Fair in 2017 and 2018. He relocated to Paris in 2019 after being offered by the French Embassy in Lebanon an art residency with the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Shojaian served as resident-in-art at La Villa les Pinsons in 2019 to 2020 and at Château de Lourmarin in 2021. His work was most recently presented in “Ombres D’Hommes” held at Nice’s Depardieu Gallery and in a group exhibition at Paris’s Lafalande Gallery, both in 2021.
Alireza Shojaian’s personal website, containing images, contact information and press coverage, can be found at: https://www.alirezashojaian.com
Note: A more extensive biography on Alireza Shojaian, including images of his work, can be found in the November 30th of 2018 issue of Queer Here located at: https://wearequeerhere.com/queerart
Middle Insert Image: Alireza Shojaian, “Remi”, 2021, Acrylic and Color Pencil, 60 x 60 cm, Private Collection