Inhabit the Surreal yet Perfect Worlds of Visual Artist Tishk Barzanji

“I’ve always had an alternative view of life,” London-based visual artist Tishk Barzanji admits – and his followers admire him for his unique capability to visualise this.

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Ever since leaving Kurdistan for the UK in 1997, Tishk has made a name for himself with his creations of surreal worlds. Drawing his inspiration from his life experiences, Tishk documents moments and sometimes leaves them for several years – just to pick them up again at the right moment and build something new from them.

Tishk’s work touches on the human longing for a world without the boundaries of space. He overcomes these limits by creating fascinating, colourful and surreal scenarios of life, making things tangible that otherwise seem impossible. The idea of this utopia also originates from his childhood in Kurdistan: “I grew up in a place I saw as a utopia. My heritage played a big part in that.”

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We sat down with Tishk to learn more about his ideas on space and utopia.

The PLUS: Can you tell us a bit about the start to end process of making these works? 
Tishk Barzanji:
I have many ideas written down inspired by moments in my life. I always begin with these ideas and then develop them into something tangible. I sketch the work before building the background colours with watercolour. This is then scanned and edited digitally. It’s a process that happened by accident, but I found out it worked well for me, so I have been developing it in the past year. 
 
TP: How do you feel when you are creating these works? 
TB:
I feel extremely passionate when I’m working because my work is very personal. It’s like revisiting that moment. I guess some of my work is quite emotional. Still, I am in a very positive state of mind.

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TP: You’ve mentioned you want to create a world without the boundaries of space. Do you think our relationship with space these days is positive or negative?   
TB:
I believe we are really conscious on how we use space, as homes are getting smaller to accommodate more of them. Structures these days are made with great care to achieve an efficient use of space. Thus, I see a positive relationship. Of course there is more that can be done, but we are heading in the right direction.
 
TP: London’s not known for being the most colourful city in terms of architecture. How do experience the city?  
TB:
I look at everything in my surroundings. Architecture is just something that is all over the place in London, so it is quite easy to relate to. But I also look at people, the atmosphere, the small details and colours in things you may not see from far away. I get a lot of inspiration from small details, even though London can be dark at times.

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TP: What do you like about surrealism? 
TB:
I’ve always had an alternate vision of life. What is reality? And are there any limits? I chose the path of really testing these boundaries. It grew organically, not necessarily while focusing on surrealism itself. I try to put down whatever I visualise in my mind. Surrealism gave me the opportunity to show everything without worrying about limits. 
 
TP: Is utopia possible?  
TB:
I never say never. But right now? I don’t think so. Because humans differ in their beliefs and ideas. One small disagreement between beliefs creates conflict. Also, utopia needs to be independent. The idea of utopia attracted me because I grew up in a place I saw as a utopia. My heritage played a big part in that.

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TP: Storytelling is a big feature when you post your work to Instagram. What’s the idea behind your captions?  
TB:
When I was ill a few years ago, I kept a diary of how I felt. At one point I ran out of things to write, so I began to observe people and write it down while also sketching movements. On one of these occasions I used one of my diary entries for a caption. Many people connected with it. I guess it grew from there. Most of the story telling is also based on my years of observing. I am still creating things from experiences I made three years ago.  
 
TP: What do you like doing when you’re not creating? 
TB:
I don’t really have a structure, I try to do things that area as far away from art as possible. I go for walks, usually in the morning. I’m really into cooking, I try new recipes every day. I like meeting people and hearing their stories, so I reach out when I can. I enjoy world music, and also fashion. And I’m learning to swim at the moment – my new hobby!

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