Studying a painting by IVY Member Nima Veiseh is like a lesson in layers. Each work is a conglomeration of some dozen or more different textures, colors, and strokes. Nima, the artist, is not so different—like the layers in his paintings, he too is a man of many facets.
When he’s not studying design, economics, and technology for his Ph.D. or teaching taekwondo, he’s painting. And now he’s launching a new boutique fashion line Dress Abstract, as an extension of his artwork. With Dress Abstract, Nima hopes to enable artists to reach larger audiences, and he feels no time is better than now: the age of the internet.
Nima sat down with IVY Magazine to talk about his new project Dress Abstract, what it means to start a fashion line right now, and how art and its distribution are changing in the face of the internet and social media.
Nima is an IVY Member. Connect and collaborate with him here.
What narrative interests you in art? Do you look to tell a story with your work, or is it more just about that raw feeling?
I think my favorite way of thinking about art is something Picasso said, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”
Just like any sort of storytelling, it is important for the artist to understand how the observer and the audience are interacting with the piece: how they are processing and how they are thinking about it. The best piece of art that an artist can create is one where the observer never stops thinking about it. It’s through my process of layers that I am able to create that depth, and my audience seems to be responding positively to it.
Now you’re taking your art, and you’re using it to create a fashion line. What has it been like transitioning your paintings to physical objects that people will be wearing?
In all honesty, clothing is just another canvas. When you start painting a great deal or you see people making murals on brick walls, everything you look at starts to look like a canvas. So since clothing is just another canvas, I was thinking of ways to enable artists to reach larger audiences, to have their work appreciated.
The idea behind Dress Abstract is that we’re a boutique that makes bespoke, handmade wares that are in themselves also original pieces of art. We’re not chasing this year’s fashion trend; we are a collective of classically-trained artists, who are creating timeless articles that can be used and appreciated and gifted in a universal way.
What is your opinion on the relationship between fashion as artwork and fashion as a practical object that has to be worn?
I think this goes back to the famous debate amongst artists, which is: what is the difference between something that is art and something that is design? And honestly, I don’t see any of these types of barriers, especially when it comes to art and when it comes to Dress Abstract.
Five hundred years ago, canvases had to be on a very specific cloth; you could only paint in oil, and it would have to lay flat. Those were the limitations of the day. But now, we are empowered to use anything as a canvas.
The definition of art, and the line between design and art and fashion, is blurring extremely quickly as artists are being enabled to think about their canvases as not just flat pieces framed to a wall, but as planes and panels that can curve around a person. Art can move and stretch and have this kinetic nature that gives a whole new dynamic not just to how art is seen, but how art is appreciated. It’s these changes in recent years that are enabling artists to reach beyond what is traditionally thought of as the mediums and the canvases that should be hanging up in galleries.
Do you have any opinions on artists that are really successful at pushing that boundary, creating non-traditional artworks?
Honestly, any modern artist is helping to push that boundary. Because of changes in technology and in possible mediums, artists are able to think very differently about how the art can be accessed and interacted with.
Right now is a very exciting time to be an artist because people want art that is authentic. People want something that’s original. And that public drive for authenticity—that big push that’s been happening in recent years—has created a very cool and very exciting environment for a lot of up-and-coming artists.
Definitely, people are looking for authenticity.
Right now, we’re seeing two different revolutions in art. One is in how artists are able to produce for the audience: new paints, new mediums, new materials. And then also we’re seeing a revolution in how audiences can interact with the artists: we have internet, instagram, general social media, galleries popping up everywhere. It’s this explosion on both sides—both in the artist’s ability to produce and in the desire and ability of the audience to access. This explosion is creating this art-positive environment, where hard-working artists with original ideas are able to transform how people view art and view themselves.
So you think social media has been good for art?
I think social media has been fantastic for art. Just like in any trade, it is so important to have multiple channels for people to interact and access your art. Just because anyone is able to post to Instagram, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone wants to be an artist. But it’s helping people access ideas and think differently about how art can be produced.
As an artist, what I really appreciate about social media is the feedback from other artists. The internet has become one giant school for art now, whereas back in the day, you would’ve had to try out and find a spot within a small school with a master painter. Your ideas would have been completely imparted by that one person, that one school. Now, art is this synthesis that has resulted from the layers and layers in composition and decomposition and recomposition of ideas, creating an explosion in new thought.
Why do you think there’s this focus on a synthesis of new ideas?
As millennial generation grows, people want to think independently, people want to be multidisciplinary. We’re not the generation that stays at the same job for 30 years or even 3 years. Many people I know and graduated with are on three month contracts, and we’re not also thinking and majoring in one subject in college. We’re not just doing one thing on the job. We are forced to think about life in terms of its many layers, in terms of every way that we interact with it. We’re not defined by any one thing—we’re all abstract. I’m an engineer, but I’m also a painter. The ways that engineering and science make me think about the world enable me to work more effectively as an artist.
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