Every year, North York Arts partners with emerging and established artists to put on art exhibitions for the North York community. The first exhibition of 2018 is titled “They are Around” by multidisciplinary artist, Azadeh Pirazimian.

Azadeh, who has a B.A. in Painting and an M.A. in Visual Communication, was born in Iran and has been in Canada for almost three years. Her collection “They are Around” explores how she began to develop her artistic voice in Canada. I had the chance to talk with Azadeh and learn a little more about her exhibition and her inspiring story.

Tell me a bit about yourself and where your love for art comes from.

I’m Azadeh Pirazimian and two and half years ago I immigrated to Canada. I remember that as a child I was really interested in art. It was mostly visual art – I was really interested in painting and my teachers were always interested in my artwork. When I finished high school, I went to university and I studied painting. Little by little, I got more interested in visual art. I also did drama; I was working as an actress in a theatre.  So I did both visual art and theatre at the same time. I don’t know where [my love for art] comes from. Maybe it comes from the nature of where I was living at the time; I’m from north of Iran so I was surrounded by beautiful nature. Maybe it comes from that, I don’t know.  All I know is that if I wasn’t an artist, I would be absolutely confused and I don’t know what I would do!

To date, what has your experience as in artist in Toronto been like?

I guess in Toronto I was “born again” as an artist. When I was in Iran, I was mostly teaching art and doing theatre on the side. I wasn’t very experienced in presenting my work. But when I came here, I could see that there was space for me to show my art, even in North York. I started my first workshops here in North York with newcomers. With places like North York Arts, Toronto Arts Foundation, and other organizations in Toronto, I found that I could present my work and even sell my work. Within two years, I sold several of my artworks. That wasn’t really something I could do in Iran. So here in Toronto, I have had new experiences that have really helped me establish myself as an artist and introduce myself as an artist. For me, that was amazing and I’m really happy.

Can you describe your upcoming exhibition and where you found inspiration?

As I said before, it’s only been a short time since I’ve been in Canada. When I arrived here, I was alone. I didn’t really have any friends or family so I was at home for a whole six months. I was confused. I couldn’t really speak English, just some daily phrases. At first, I was afraid to communicate because I didn’t know the culture.

One day, I was at home and I was looking outside the window during the summer and the nature was so beautiful; I remember the wind between the leaves. I was inside and I was feeling a little depressed because I am usually a sociable person and so I thought, “Ok – You can’t communicate with people but you have your art. You are an artist. You studied this…” I didn’t have many art supplies but I said, “I have my notebook, I have my pen, so just get out of here and even if you can’t communicate with people, you can communicate with nature.”

So I went outside to the nearest park from my building and I started to sketch and connect with the nature, trees, and animals all around me. And then the project just happened. Now I have a collection of black and white drawings that are all about my first days in Canada where I didn’t have people to communicate with, so nature helped me.

Then, people came and they talked. The first window helped me to open another window to talk to people – that was the motivation for this series of drawings that I did for over a year. It was healing for me at that time. It took shape and now it’s a collection that I can present.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?

I hope that people who are like me, even if they are not newcomers (I know that there are some people who have lived in this country for a long time but still feel alone), know that they can do the same. They don’t have to wait for something really big to happen. They can start with something small to get out of their loneliness. Even if it’s with a butterfly, or the leaves- if they just get out and communicate, they will see that big things will happen. I believe that big things always start from small steps. If they find inspiration inside, they should work on it and see that something really amazing can happen.

You can see Azadeh’s exhibition “They are Around” from March 15-23, 2018 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge St.) in the Lower Gallery. Opening Reception will be held on March 15 from 6-8 pm. For daily gallery hours, please visit www.northyorkarts.org. For more information on Azadeh and her work and career, visit http://www.azadehpirazimian.com.


Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator