By PHILO COHEN
"There is no position beyond politics within a political system, you are always acting within broader concepts of culture"
Who are you?
My name is Moshtari Hilal and I am an artist living in Germany.
How did you first get into art?
I was always interested in culture, in reading and drawing, but could never really decide what I should study. When I traveled to Afghanistan to discover the art scene in Kabul, I realized how politics is interwoven into everything we do. I painted at the first alternative music festival in Kabul and did murals and other art collaborations. Art was always present in the way in which I approached people and how we interacted. It is easier to be introduced as an artist than as a random person when you are a stranger. People listent to you and respect your vision and ideas. But at the same time I didn't feel to have a qualified opinion on anything, since everything was political and the history of a place and ideas shape reality. So I decided to study history, politics, cultures and languages of the Middle East when I traveled back to Hamburg, Germany. But I also continued to do art and both paths influenced each other.
You use mostly black and white, what is it about it that you like better than color?
I also wear mostly black, so it is first of all my sense of aesthetics. I think a black and white base allows more experiments with patterns, details and shapes without looking too ridiculous or kitschy. Black is also a hommage to black hair and black haired bodies. Black hair is highlighted the best through black lines. And black and white is not to forget a timeless, cheap and fast way to visualizes something concerning printing costs or the implent of an idea while travelling.
What places allow you to feel the most creative?
Right now I am in a studio apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden. It's an art residency. For the first time of life I have so much space and there is a kind of isolation from my crowded everyday life. So this is really inspiring, but also puts a lot of pressure on me. Suddenly, I have this place which tells me to be creative and which values my working process. But in general I dont a have a work place, I work from home and most of the time I watch a movie while drawing or listent to music. But that is not when my ideas cross my mind, but during filling out a finished draft with lines or patterns. The truth is I can't enforce creativity, I can't enforce being productive. New input, scrolling, going to the museum, looking at old photos help, having deadlines helps, daydreaming helps, taking your random ideas serious, doodling and doing sketches help too. But being creative is not a talent or a irrational moment, I guess it is a process and must be trained. I still have to learn to control it, to respect it more.
How much does your art allow you to express yourself?
I am a really anxious and melancholic person, so most of the time I question everything and myself. The only way out is art. Art is the only element in my life which values my anxiety and doubts as a source of inspiration to reflect, criticize or develop visionary alternatives for myself or the society. Art is not so much a tool to my self expression as it is a method or approach to process life and existence. It is not overwhelming me, in a bad nor good way.
Do you call your art political?
I would call my art rather semi-autobiographical than political. But since my biography as a refugee, female body, muslim raised and educated person is political, everything I do could be read as political too. But strictly speaking everything is political and everyones acts are as well. A white art student who calls herself apolitical and only paints abstract shapes, is political too. Your decision to make art, your possibility to study art and your carelessness about everyday politics, border politics or the rights of the working class for example already marks your stance, which is the one of being privileged enough to ignore. I think there is no position beyond politics within a political system, you are always acting within broader concepts of culture, behind your self consciousness. You are always within a tradition, even if you only care about design and the blue color of Yves Klein. So my stance is: art doesn't have to be political, art is free and its limits are beyond our imagination. But every artist should be able to reflect its time and position itself within the working process or while communicating with an audience.
Your style is very defined, are you ever attracted by a total different genre/medium form that you have yet to try?
I am interested in everything. So if I had the opportunity I would try many different genres or mediums. For now I want to exhaust the full potential of my current style and vision, I am only at the beginning. But I also see myself taking photos, writing or even filming. Maybe in the future.
You just published a printed edition of your work called We Were Drawn Here, with Lukas Birk, what is the next step?
Lukas Birk and I are currently working on our next art book inspired by negatives from the early 70's portrait studios in Peshawar. So there is a lot of material left to continue this project. I always wanted to publish a graphic novel, but now I am more interested in creating a more experimental storybook with writings and drawings, collages and photogaphy. I guess I am just waiting for the right moment, and publisher.
Where do you draw the most inspiration from?
Faces and patterns.
Who do you make for?
I make art for myself, because I like to do art. I don't serve any audience and I dont represent anyone, but myself. Sometimes I take commission work, I see those as new challenges to learn and rethink my abilities.
What are your tips for aspiring artists?
Don't reproduce aesthetics and images, but try to question the given. Try to find your own style that makes you recognizable. Learn from artists you admire, don't copy them, but try to be their student until you find your own path. Art is work and make sure people pay you!
How are you aiming to make your imprint as a woman in the art world?
To be honest I don't think of myself as a woman, but as Moshtari, a body-less mind. But of course there are moments when I realize that my perspective is different from a male or from the white perspective. What I aim is to always be subjective and take my subjectivity seriously, as my main unconscious source of inspiration. What makes me relevant and not replaceable is my radical subjectivity. The moment I compromise my vision or ideas, my work is not any longer my art.
All of the non-credited artwork is the courtesy of Moshtari Hilal.