Iranian Engineer Turned Painter Kamrouz Honarfar Puts on Berlin Exhibition

Many people dread retirement because it disrupts the work-life routine that they had maintained for years. Not so for Kamrouz Honarfar, a retired Iranian engineer, who has seamlessly swapped his toolbox for a painting palette.

With the support and encouragement of his wife and aunt — the renowned Berlin-based Iranian painter Jaleh Pourhang — Mr. Honarfar has created an impressive body of work since picking up the paintbrush a few years ago. His first solo exhibition was held earlier this year at the Benakohell gallery in Berlin.

“As an industrial and mechanical engineer, I worked on projects from concept to creation. I always enjoyed designing, drawing, and painting,” Honafar said. “I got much support from my aunt Jaleh Pourhang, who is a prominent Iranian painter. So after I retired, I became a full-time painter,” Honarfar said.

“As a retirement gift, my son enrolled me in a three-day figurative and landscape painting workshop in Vienna,” he added. “At the end of the second day, I realized that it wasn’t for me. I needed to develop a style of painting that would enable me to express my creative ideas.”

“I always admired works by Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, so I adopted their approach to painting,” the engineer-turned-painter said. “I didn’t do any preparatory drawings. I wanted to paint without planning my canvases. The idea was to express my thoughts and emotions freely. I didn’t want to overthink my ideas or meticulously filter them. Interestingly enough, the result always reflected what I had intended to express on a subconscious level.”

The painter said his work was dominated by geometric shapes, and that the chessboard was a “recurring image” in my paintings. “It symbolizes the sinister game of diplomacy and politics. It signifies the systematic and methodical destruction of our society,” he explained.

The human eye, he said, “is also a motif I often use in my paintings. It is a direct influence of Persian miniatures on my work,” Honarfar said. “I have always been awestruck by how master painters drew the human eye in ancient Persian miniatures.”

“The paintings portray the struggles of a person who has lived away from his country for 50 years. The works express and encapsulate these accumulated experiences.”

Honafar said he received encouragement from both his aunt and his wife. “My wife is a musician,” he said. “On occasions when I wasn’t motivated to paint, she would urge me to go back to the canvas by playing the piano. Her music always inspired me to pick up the brush and resume painting.”

“One day the radio was on, and as always the news was about a tragic event in Iran,” Honarfar said. “At that point, the presenter changed the mood by playing a happy song titled ‘Morning Bird.’ The song was the inspiration for one of my paintings in the show. It depicts a woman emerging from inside a flower with a bird standing behind her.”

Honarfar said he was “lucky to have this outlet” because many of his recently retired friends were “having a difficult time adjusting to their new lives. Many of them do nothing. They are depressed.”

“Fortunately, I’ve been able to encourage at least two of them to attend painting classes,” he said.  “Making art transports me to a different world. It is an unbelievably beautiful place.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]

Link to the Farsi page: Processed from a video clip