Iran, Sanctions and Graffiti. A Conversation with artist GORBE

by Andrea Juanillo

In the Iranian capital of Tehran, graffiti artists consider themselves fortunate if their artwork stay on a wall for a week or so. While others have had to leave Iran to find a place where they could freely express themselves, some artists like GORBE stay on and continue to make art despite the tight restrictions.

You recently changed your name from Enosh to Gorbe - how come?

I'm really bad at choosing an artistic name! I was Niko at first, then Enosh and now Gorbe. Gorbe is the name of the character that I've been painting since 2014. My friends and homies have been calling me Gorbe instead of my actual nickname so that's the reason I forget about Enosh and choose Gorbe as the nickname.

How is the current situation in Iran right now? How difficult are things and is the art scene affected?

Sadly, people are dying in Iran due to the crisis but this is not the only worst thing here. Sanctions affect people's lives more than Coronavirus and it has been for years and artists are affected.

So for those that don't know - how do the sanctions effect you or any other artists on a daily basis?

It’s killing us!

Prices are increasing day by day - rents, materials, foodstuff and even domestic products!

We’re just trying to survive these days. I personally couldn’t spend the (same amount) of money that I used to spend for making stickers! I make hand drawn stickers more than printed ones!

Some graffiti artists have stopped their profession and some like me have to limit their activities. If i used to paint 5 or 6 colours on the wall if I wanna survive and have money to eat, I have to use only 2 colours. We even start refilling Montana cans with Iranian low quality colours because imported things like Montana are WAY too expensive for graffiti right now - iIt’s horrible man!

That’s also the reason people trying to leave Iran right now more than before. I don’t know what would happen in the future - nobody knows!

And then how has the pandemic affected you?

It has had a direct effect on my job. Everywhere was closed. No jobs on offer. But after that, everything has changed back to normal in Iran.

People have to earn money to live.

When did you first develop an interest in street art?

Everything changed since I played the "Getting up" game for the first time.

I used to write Trane everywhere in town and after a year I guess I was chilling in a bookstore and found the "Sticker bomb 2" on the shelf and that was a new beginning.

Title: RoboGorbe

Stickerbomb 2 is actually one of our personal favourites within the Stickerbomb collection. Was it that important for you?

If i hadn’t seen that book in my early years of practice, i wouldn’t be who i am today! Maybe something else would have got my attention in art - that was the first time I saw how artists could be together with all different kind of art styles! Stickers was something really new to me, I hadn't had any pictures in my mind and Stickerbomb 2 had made it for me and I do think I was really lucky about that. Now i can see its effect on my profession. It opened my eyes, showed me styles, forms, colour combinations. I was even trying to copy some of my favourite styles in the book and draw something close to them. Stickerbomb 2 actually opened my eyes and let me know how to make cool stickers. I should say a big THANK YOU for making the book.

Wow thanks!

So now being an independent artist, what are you working on and how do you keep the work coming in?

I've been painting some concrete mixer trucks for a company and now i'm working on some skateboard graphics for a local skate shop.

(It's difficult being independent) You could be rich in one month and could be broke in next month. But I do my best for every single job i'm offered even if I get paid less than what I ask - that's a rule for me.

Are there other artists who you're particularly interested in at the moment, or who have influenced your work?

There are artists I really admire like Imon boy, Weckman, and Benson.

Do you have any upcoming projects or plans for the future you'd like to share with us?

I have a plan to create a YouTube channel and start uploading videos of my personal project, Iranian graffiti artists and their work. There are so many videos of graffiti writers' routines on YouTube but none of them are about Iranians! That could be something new for people around the world to see how graffiti and street art happens here. Iran is not all about war.

And right now, I'm working on Gorbe paper toy to sell on my online shop.

What is your favorite piece of work you've done and why?

That's definitely the illustration I did for "2020 halt" project managed by MegZany.

2020 Halt
Title: CatDog

Is there anything that you want to share with other independent artists across the globe?

There's some golden moment for every artist to achieve and shine. Make the most of them!

For more of Gorbe's works, check out his instagram. If you need to commission him or you need something from our creative studio: motion graphics / animation / shooting / editing please email us here or schedule a conversation with us.