Mythical creatures, ancient storytelling and traditional calligraphy make up the work of Iranian artist Mohammad Barrangi. A paralympian, illustrator, and refugee, his powerful work is deeply rooted in his heritage.
Born in Rasht, Iran, in 1988, Mohammad has the unique title of being both an incredibly talented artist, and a medal-winning international athlete. Born without the use of his left arm, he works on the floor and uses his feet to steady his work while he’s cutting or printing.
Barrangi left Iran in 2017 and travelled to Yorkshire, where he became involved in The Art House in Wakefield – an organisation created to provide time, space, and support for artists from a wide range of backgrounds. He enrolled on the Studio of Sanctuary residency, an initiative that supports refugees and asylum seekers so they can continue their artistic work. Since then, Barrangi has quickly established internationally renowned work, winning numerous illustration awards and recently has had two works acquired by the British Museum.
His work centres on experiences of travel, journeys, and his lived experiences with immigration and disability. Inspired by Iranian mythological stories and both political and social upheaval, he’s developed a signature style using bold illustrations with a nostalgic, almost ancient quality. He combines these with Persian calligraphy, old scientific drawings, and mythical storytelling.
His particular form of printmaking is created by using a two-stage process that involves drawing and printing onto handmade paper;
“The first stage is using an Iranian calligraphy method to make the initial drawing. I then scan, collage, and print my drawings. They can then be transferred using cellulose thinners onto a new sheet of paper, which has been prepared with Iranian wood stain. Once this has dried, the text is applied in the same way to build up the collage. Sometimes I use my handwriting, sometimes I collage texts from old books. The texts have been reversed through the transfer process, so it’s often difficult to read, or unreadable.”
Reflecting on his own experiences, particularly as an artist with a disability, his work often shows scientific images of people with lost arms, limbs or other disabilities as well images of women that he admires:
“I like to depict images of my mother, exiled Iranian queens or just friends who mean a lot to me. Sometimes I combine elements from classical Western paintings with Eastern stories or imagery.”
Mohammad is currently showing at Advocartsy gallery in Los Angeles from 22 September to 5 November 2022.