Muscat: Iranian-American artist Rassouli doesn't merely paint beautiful canvases; he uses his art to bring messages of freedom, love and surrender to those who see his work.
Rassouli, whose exhibition "Love & Light" is currently at Bait Muzna Gallery in the Opera Gallerias, says art should be more than a rational representation. He says it should speak to the soul.
"Art is really for the connection of the heart. It's the spiritual connection that we make. It's not about the rationality," says Rassouli, his dark brown eyes smiling. The colourful canvases, which are filled with a mix of acrylics and oils that Rassouli applies with his fingers, rags, and sometimes his favourite brushes, explore the worlds of light and dark, known and unknown, reality and dreams. He describes them as "fusion art," in which the physical and dream worlds connect.
"If the work of art puts you into dreaming, it's a work of art," says Rassouli, 69.
Painting should be more about using your heart and less about using your mind, he explains. If you let the heart guide you and surrender to the flow of creativity, the results will say more to viewers.
When artists focus on trying to make their work look rational and realistic, so too will viewers, who will then be more critical of the details. But when art is inspired from the heart, viewers tend to accept it as is, responding emotionally and feeling that everything about it is right, Rassouli explains.
Rassouli, who is Sufi, is inspired by the mystic poets Rumi and Hafez, whose verses were his nursery rhymes as a child growing up in Esfahan, Iran. As the great Sufis before him did, he is able to free his mind and allow his art to become a form of worship.
"It's not about painting, necessarily. It's about making yourself as a work of art. I take painting as an example of how great you are as a creative person," he says.
Though his current work is very dreamy and emotional, Rassouli didn't start that way. At the age of 15, he moved from Iran to the USA, where he initially struggled to survive. His talents were soon discovered, though, and he made his living painting portraits and commissions for the Washington DC Chamber of Commerce. He eventually became an architect, but he found that his creativity was smothered by the job. So, he returned to his Sufi roots, which let him work from the heart.
His work now reflects his faith, and his belief in what he considers the true messages of the three Abrahamic religions: freedom (from Judaism), love (from Christianity), and surrender (from Islam). Each of these is reflected in his work, and he says he hopes people will feel them.
"As an artist I'm like a prophet. I've got a message I want to deliver. A painting does not stop on the wall. The creativity will flow through it and touch others," he says.