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Face the felt

June 17, 2020

Iranian artist Salman Khoshroo faced the fear of coronavirus by creating portraits in a new medium: felt. Denna Jones learns how making art provides power and comfort in stressful times

‘I laid the wool like floating brushstrokes.’ Iranian artist Salman Khoshroo’s words are poetic. So too are the wool portraits he created during coronavirus quarantine as a pointed departure from his painting practice.

Wool on Foam Portrait Series, Salman Khoshroo

Needle felting foam blocks are the structural support for Khoshroo’s portraits. Each head is constructed with long, combed needle felting ‘wool tops’. ‘Felting is wonderfully simple,’ he says. ‘It’s a serious material in its own right. Felt artists mostly needle the wool into condensed shapes, but in my paintings I’m inclined to make sweeping gestures and I find this wool is a flowing material. I don’t depend on models, but rather the faces are found through the process; people that make you feel something, people you didn’t even know you were looking for. Once you start to create faces it becomes an obsessive pursuit to have the ability to create moods and emotions with a brush, palette knife or wool.’

Wool on Foam Portrait Series, Salman Khoshroo

‘These aren’t a conscious effort to make quarantine art,’ he explains, ‘but the process brought me comfort. These portraits are delicate and vulnerable and resonate with my own precarious situation. Artists are veterans of isolation; we need much less adjusting. I am no stranger to crisis. I’ve had no choice but to weave my career through imposed hardships, political upheavals, sanctions, threat of war, economic collapse. What I can say for sure is that art helps me get through and I want share its power with others.’

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