OUT OF CHARACTER surveys nearly 30 unique characters from more than 300 years of Iranian history. Shahs, empresses, political figures, military commanders, and persian mythical creatures are among those depicted in this expansive series.
Digitally drawn with a light-hearted hand, these limited edition works encourage viewers to proverbially crane their necks to garner fresh insight into the lives and personalities of previously opaque public figures. “I am implementing fictional characterizations of these individuals within the audience’s mind regardless of the reality. My intention is to build these characters from the inside out, investing them with a past and a persona only hinted at in the history.” says Afshar “For the creation of these characters, I tend to concentrate more on the refinements than general aspects. I intend to re-imagine their roles within specific time periods of our contemporary culture and crystalize the clichés about them. I intend to creep up on my audience, hinting on the importance of reviewing the history and how characters carry the weight of its narrative.” Through caricaturesque stylization, Afshar summons colorful, multi-faceted identities from the black and white pages of textbooks and seeks to undermine our traditional means of understanding the past. In doing so, history becomes more approachable, less daunting, and ultimately more fun.
An alumnus of the California Institute of Arts Character Animation department and a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles Graduate Department of Film, Pouya Afshar currently serves as an assistant professor of Art and Design at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Afshar’s multidisciplinary background informs all the work he creates, regardless of medium. Pouya Afshar is the creator, character designer, and producer of the animated series “Rostam in Wonderland” and the co-creator of 1PA2PA comics. Most recently, Afshar wrote and illustrated a graphic novel entitled “TEHRAN,” which follows the story of a 6-year-old non-binary child living in Tehran and aims to create a platform for dialogue about gender, sexual identity, human rights, and youth well-being in Iran.
As an artist whose diverse practice ranges from illustration to animation to oil painting, the common thread within Pouya Afshar’s expansive body of work is storytelling. Afshar states “In storytelling, it is imperative to understand a character’s personality and behavioral tendencies in order to capture an appealing characterization of that persona within the narrative structure. One has to live, breathe, and feel the surroundings alongside the characters he/she creates.” going on to describe his intention behind the series, Afshar claims “For me, within this context, I intend to restructure real personalities visually and create a new persona. In a way, I am distorting history by projecting these characters through a humorous lens.” Journeying from works that depict specific individuals within Iranian history to works that draw on famed Persian mythology and literature, OUT OF CHARACTER invites viewers to consider how the past has influenced the present and further, how the present influences our understanding of the past.