Local visual artist reflects on moments of pause

Artist NikNaz painting Survive at an event called Anu.

Artist NikNaz painting Survive at an event called Anu.

In our modern lives we experience a daily chaos that makes it seem difficult – perhaps impossible – to find both the time and space for reflection or meditation.

NikNaz Kahnamoui, a visual storyteller based in Vancouver, is very aware of the hectic schedules in our lives, the pressure to be perfect, and the challenges we experience in creating moments of calm and quiet.

Grounded in Sufi values and strongly influenced by the written word, Kahnamoui’s artwork contemplates our continuous search for meaning among the activities of daily life.

“It is mostly poetry and nature that inspire my work, and the experiences of the day-to-day,” Kahnamoui says.

Pausing to be present

Last weekend, Kahnamoui exhibited her new collection, Letting time Breathe, as part of this year’s Eastside Culture Crawl. The collection is inspired by Tara Brach, senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, and her concept of The Sacred Pause.

“It’s about taking a step back from our everyday activities, taking a pause, and being present in the moment,” says Kahnamoui.

After sustaining an injury from a recent accident, Kahnamoui says she experienced a forced pause. The first piece she worked on after her recovery, titled Before the Calm, is what she considers to be the darkest piece in the collection, heavily textured with a rich layering of colour.

Rather than illustrating The Sacred Pause, Kahnamoui says her latest collection expresses the anguish one goes through to get to that moment of pause. Ironically, she points out, there were times during the creation of this collection where busyness in her life and work made it difficult to find those moments of pause, which she sought to explore and represent.

The artistic pursuit

Artist NikNaz in studio. | Photo courtesy of NikNaz Kahamoui

Artist NikNaz in studio. | Photo courtesy of NikNaz Kahamoui

Twenty years ago, Kahnamoui moved to Canada from Iran.

“As an immigrant coming to Canada, I had to be pragmatic,” Kahnamoui says, “But when I felt I had everything covered, I could finally pursue art.”

She has studied architecture, business administration, and pursued interdisciplinary studies in communication and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. Although her diverse educational background has never focused on visual art (she has taken a few painting classes at Emily Carr), she has painted throughout her life.

During her graduate studies, she recalls being so absorbed by her thesis that she felt disembodied.

“I realized that I had to do something other than [academic work],” Kahnamoui says, and she decided to take out her mom’s oil paints and begin painting again.

Kahnamoui expresses that art has always been present in her life (she first began painting with pastels) and she practices as an artist to reflect, learn, and grow.

Presently, Kahnamoui has a shared studio at the Red Door Studio in the Mergatroid Building, where she has the space to focus closely on her creative work.

“I paint to really loud music and Persian music,” says Kahnamoui.

Creation as meditation

In sharing her work, Kahnamoui feels that she shares an intimate space with the viewer. According to Kahnamoui, art is about connectivity and reminds us that we are connected.

“I love when someone wants to talk about a piece, when it moves someone, makes someone think that there is more to life,” she says.

She hopes that her work helps people move toward these ideas and conversations.

In addition to her work as an artist, Kahnamoui is executive director of Arts Health Network Canada. The mandate of the organization is to promote artistry for better health and quality of life.

“I believe that everyone is born with artistic and creative tendencies,” she says.

For Kahnamoui, artistic practice and creativity are integral to a person’s well-being.

“Painting is meditation; creation is meditation,” says Kahnamoui.

To learn more about NikNaz Kahnamoui’s work, please visit http://www.niknazk.com

For more information on Arts Health Network Canada, please visit: http://www.artshealthnetwork.ca