Since he was a teenager, Shahin has always been attracted by Italian culture. Especially by the language, which reached him through music and through the television programs broadcasted in Iran during the 60s and 70s. Johnny Dorelli singing L’ Immensità; Little Tony singing Cuore Matto; Peppino Gagliardi with T’amo e t’ amerò; made him sing and dream. It was something that also happened to many of his peers.
SM: “In the Iranian record store you would find any music from Italy. Iran has always been strongly connected to Europe between 60ies and 70ies.”
At that time, many boys of the Armenian community used to go abroad to attend high school or university. Many of Shahin friends went to Roma or Venezia. In Venezia, there is the island of San Lazzaro, known also as the little Armenia. Today is a museum but once it was active and had an Armenian school. When young students returned home, they told about their Italian experience by sharing what they had known and sharing the music too.
Although incomprehensible, the Italian songs exercised such fascination on Shahin and on some of his close friends, so that they greeted each other with the words of those songs. Shahin tells that any time he met his friends, the greeting was “Parlami”, from the song sung by Peppino Gagliardi. He used to memorize the songs and sang them without know their meaning. One day he went to a cafe in Iran where there was live music.
The band’s drummer was Alberto, a guy from Rome. During the break Shahin wanted to compliment him. Neither spoke the other’s language and Shahin wondered what he could tell him. So he started saying “Ci pensi mai amore mio quando c’era tempo per noi due” (Do you ever think about it my love, when there was time for the two of us…) from Fiume Grande, a song by Franco Simone. Then he continued with “Io son sicuro che per ogni goccia… “(I am sure that for every drop…) L’Immensità that he heard singing by Johnny Dorelli. Although not knowing what he was saying, he managed to establish a bond with Alberto otherwise they would not have been able to fully enjoy that moment. Subsequently, whenever Shahin met an Italian, he helped himself with a dictionary. The desire to learn was so strong that when he moved abroad he enrolled in an Italian class before he was even familiar with English. Finally every word he learned gave the meaning to all the songs he knew therefore he began to understand. Since then by listening to the lyrics started to figure the meaning of them.
S.M.: “Parlami” means Talk to me. That was what it meant! Now I see! I started feeling the picture of it. America is easier it is the land of opportunities so I took classes and I learned some Italian. I went to the Italian community in Downtown Los Angeles and also at UCLA so I got into the trap of learning. I am not even sure I learned everything but, at least, I can not be apart of it. And I can continue my songs. At that time, it was 1982, I had my “Guarda che Luna” by Fred Buscaglione and today I have all the versions of that song sung by many different singers. I have a collection of it. One of the singers that for some reason touched most my heart was Peppino Gagliardi, who deserved more success than that he had. Some years ago I looked for him and I was able to talk to his manager who put me in contact with him.At that time I was going to start a painting so I thought that would be nice to paint a portrait of him as a tribute to thanks him for his songs of my yought. So I painted him and I sent him the painting. However I also appreciate other Neapolitan singers like Massimo Ranieri “Quando l’amore diventa Poesia…..”
Shahin fell in love with these songs when he was 18 years old and now he still sings them and understands the meaning of them. “That‘s the beauty of it! ” He says. He also appreciates other singers such as Gianni Nazzaro, Peppino Di Capri, Adriano Celentano, Domenico Modugno who, according to him, is one of the greatest. He says that Modugno is like Charles Asnavour and his way to sing let’s the listener figure the picture of the song. This is very important to Shahin who has got a strong artistic sensibility and talent that is what we are going to talk about. As a person he lives and appreciate the beauty of life. He is a peaceful man who constantly tries to create harmony whatever is around him. Indeed you can feel the positive energy he spreads through his way to be and his way to communicate with people. He is an enthusiast always in activity cultivating many different interests but that have things in common, that are art and beauty. Shahin is a painter, a magician, and a good cook too! While not a composer he is deeply interested in the way of composing.
S.M.: ”I am not sure what it takes to be an artist but I enjoy painting, I enjoy magic and I enjoy listening to music. I enjoy hearing Italian language. I basically enjoy whatever comes to me. I like every form of art. I have been taking cooking classes and paiting classes. I have been part of Academy of Magical Arts at Magic Castle in Hollywood. I collect songs… I just live … I look at every moment and enjoy. I have not taken any formal education in Art. Actually my formal education has been in science, which is far off. But I think that everything if you put it under a magnifier has some kind of artistic form which I see and enjoy.”
Born in Iran in an Armenian community with an Armenian descents. Shahin Mastian considers himself bicultural and bilingual. However, as the reality of facts we would be more precise saying that he trilingual and tricultural because when he was 22 years old he moved in United States that he now considers his country and that gave him many opportunities. Looking at his amazing paintings I was wondering what did influence his artistic path.
S.M.: ”I can take the best from both cultures the Armenian culture as well as the Iranian culture. But I personally don’t see any of them influenced my art. When I was a small boy I was looking at the paintings, usually they were European paintings I noticed the contrast of colors and the street of somewhere in Europe or in New York. What attracted me most was the contrast of colors and the paintings of streets, especially rainy. Of course they inspired me to start painting but the problem was that I never liked whatever I painted when I was a teenage.”
He shares about his artistic background telling that he took a little bit of classes since he was a youg guy but he didn’t continue classes because theachers were imposing styles when he was still discovering them.
S.M.: ”I couldn’t be forced in being limited in one unique style. So every time I looked at a painting I started questioning myself about why I liked this and not liked that. It took me years and years. I was continuing painting and still didn’t like what I was painting, even when I was 20 years old. And I painted over my paintings. I wish I kept those paintings because I lost them. I didn’t have money to buy more canvas so any time there was something I didn’t like I just painted over it.”
He knew that he was diving toward French Impressionism. He was fascinated by European paintings. He loved paintings of Venezia with its buildings and boats and the reflection of the water. Paintings of buildings in New York’s rainy streets. What catched his attention was the reflection of water in paintings. That inspired him to start to paint. He used to look at things from his balcony and try to paint what he saw but he was never satisfied about his works.
S.M.: ”What attracted me was those impressionist paintings. Then I realized that the reasonwhy I like painting is because colors are not precise. Every paint is beautiful. The thing is thatyou decide what to see. You can look at anything And not having the perfect color and put it on canvas, as a conceptual color, I believe it allows the viewer to feel its own color, and so it is the real painting. There was a store, in a street of Tehran, where, every day, I was walking by. In the store there was a painting. Any time I looked at it I discovered something new. There was not really something new. The fact was that I was changing, because I was looking at it each time by focusing on different parts of it. I realized that I was the one choosing to see something. I began thinking that if I would be precise I wouldn’t allow the viewer to get much of the painting. Being less precise, going through Pointillism, has some abstract in little areas, but in reality delivers the real message.”
As soon as Shahin moved overseas everything was bigger and opener. He had the chance to do more and at the time that he was about 30 years old he discovered his own identity as a painter. His style is now recognizable. It is something that belongs to him and that expresses also his own way to be. In fact as a painter he paints part of the painting depending on the distance and on the combination of colors. According to him, the other part of the work is made by the viewer, who can feel at ease in front of the image by continuing to see whatever he/she wants. Likewise, in life, it expresses openness and communication by putting people at ease with the colors of his soul. Painting, composing, doing magic, cooking delicious dishes, being sociable, living life… As he says, there is art in all of this. And he is a master who enjoys the journey more than the destination!
SM: ”In painting we use optical colors to produce an image. In composition we use composition of soundings to produce a sound image. In cooking we use ingredients and taste to compose something. And in magic we use effects to create something because it is possible to have it turns with magical arts. So, basically everything is art. The media is different. Also connecting with people it can be an art. It is the impression that give the untaken to each other.”
He is a man of science who basically works and, after work, he cooks. If he stays around he usually paints when he wants to take a break or before going to sleep. He didn’t start to paint for money, it begun as a hobby by occasionally spending a couple of hours on paintings. “Life is time and time is life” he says and the value of time is very high for him.
Today his art works are very requested and he dedicates time painting them. He has painted major cities and monuments such as Paris, the Champs Elysee, the Moulin Rouge, the Eiffel tower, Roma, the Colosseum, Firenze, the tower of Pisa, Venezia during daylight and Venezia by night. And also the young Shahin, in Iran, painted Napoli in water color, featuring narrow streets with hanging laundry and the “scugnizzi” playing on the street. He also made many New York paintings and Hollywood as well, especially the area where the Magic Castle is. And then many others subjects including portraits like the one of Peppino Gagliardi and flamenco dancers…One of his most recent works is Tehran’s tower which you can see in the image below. We will be pleased to have him as a guest at Napulitanamente magazine’s event which will be held next year and will have a little personal exposition of some of his masterpieces.
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