Interview with Anahita Diba & Jane Kanizay

Face2Face Series 2 April: ‘Elements of Nature’

Our April artist pair, Jane Kanizay and Anahita Diba focussed on two different backgrounds for their project Elements of Nature: Anahita on rain forest and desert and Jane on bush and water.

What was it that you loved about this project?

What we loved was sharing our different techniques together and doing more figurative work.

To begin with and to immerse themselves in their co-creation piece, Anahita and Jane began their journey together with a life drawing class.

Jane said Our landscapes bring together elements in the natural world; bush and forest, the dessert and the sea. We have also collaged images from traditional Iranian artwork and tiling, Australian landscape and flora and photographs from my travels to bring our artworks together.  

Our lives and homes have overlapped in a number of serendipitous ways. I travelled through Iran for my honeymoon, many years ago when Anahita would have been merely a toddler but this gives me a sense of her home. When I look back over my photographs of Iran, this feeling of nostalgia, which I can only imagine how it must feel to need to leave your home, touches me.

We now share Australia as home, which has always been a safe place for me, and now allows safety for Anahita. Yet with policies that still makes her future uncertain.

Jane and Anahita met previously in an English language class as well as one art class where students were taught to create their own BIO and create a self-portrait. Little did they know, their friendship would be strengthened by being paired for Face2Face.

Jane said “I’ve had a lot of experience with figurative drawing and painting but for Anahita it was her first experience of this. She loved it and I found joy in sharing this with her. Anahita now wants to do more life drawing as she loves the female form as an art medium. Coming from a Middle Eastern country, this represents total freedom of expression. So our figures in our paintings have come those from those classes”.

The girls then shared a trip away near Daylesford to paint ‘en plein air’, which put simply, is painting outdoors, where they could be inspired by nature. They then switched to abstract, with Anahita experimenting with collage. Anahita also experimented for the first time with a palette knife using oils, which she didn’t find it hard in comparison to using acrylic. This is unusual as the transition from one medium to the other is often difficult. It took a lot of courage and bravery to do this, as Anahita had never tried oil painting before”.

Daylesford was also the site for their co-creation piece which is the biggest piece in the series. Jane said We transposed our life drawings to timber board and canvas to create our oil paintings. Sitting in the landscape, with the sun on our backs and bull-ants crawling through our art supplies, absorbing the peaceful surrounds of the Australian bush was the perfect setting to share this journey.  A lovely synchronicity was discovered as my childhood was based in Daylesford where I was brought up.

Anahita commented When I first went there felt like I knew everyone already as I had heard about them from Susan, the psychologist in detention who I formed a close connection with.

As a result of this, I am now happy to call Daylesford my home and it is the first country town in Australia I have visited.  As a result of being friends with Susan, I now have many friends in Daylesford and spend a lot of time there.  

Jane how has it made you feel

“It’s focussed me and given me a goal. It has also pushed me into new techniques which align with what Anahita is doing. I’ve actually learnt a lot from Anahita.  When I find my work getting loose, I look at hers and get inspired. From the time I met her she has inspired and overwhelmed me, especially considering the background she came from.

It was wonderful to share Anahita’s first class in life drawing and introduce her to the joys of drawing from life, which can be more challenging in its immediacy than drawing from images. I am really enjoying this shared technique as I am learning a lot and it feels like a huge victory for both of us, as I didn’t know how to do it”.

“Sharing the female form is like sharing nature because they are both giving life. Jane said that’s why our work has a very earthy feel to it”.

Sharing red fabric is synonymous with a feminine colour so the artists used that to represent the feminine in their paintings. It was very insightful to both of them.  Jane said, “We’ve had some great conversations where we’ve talked about paintings and our backgrounds. We really enjoyed each other’s company in the creative process. And as a bonus, I get an Iranian home cooked meal each week!”

This exhibition represents symbols of each other’s styles and connects the pieces together. For instance the collaborative nine pieces commence with water, progress to the land, the forest and then to the desert.  Each piece shares some collage patterns, which for Anahita provides memories of Iran. Jane had wedding in Iran (Anahita was very young), once again marrying the symbiotic synchronicity in their alliance.

Anahita, how has this project made you feel! “It feels amazing and I have really enjoyed Janes  company. I was looking for someone who could relate to my work, and I found her!

So why do you paint nudes

“I think it is sad re the lack of confidence women have about their bodies, so I like to show how beautiful the female form can be when depicted in paint”.

Anahita, have you done a lot of painting since starting on Nauru

I counted the photos of my paintings on my Instagram page and I had done 100. And I sold them all!

So what do you hope will come out this project

Anahita said “I just love love that I can openly share my points of view about art and the female body

Jane commented “For me it’s having the courage to have more exposure to show my own art because I don’t often have the courage to do this. I Just keep waiting to get that bit better. So far, I have only had one exhibition and that was 4 years ago.

Also, to work alongside more women and to use my space and invite Anahita into it. Hoping to bring another friend.

Thank you to Space2B for making this amazing opportunity for us both possible.


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