Amir Fallah’s paintings stage a captivating collision between Iranian and American culture

The multi-talented artist takes us through the process behind his complex paintings and shares his journey from skateboarding to fine art.

28 April 2022

Amir Fallah entered the world of art by way of skateboarding, the artist tells It’s Nice That. Hanging out in skate parks from the age of 12 meant that it was not long before Amir discovered the captivating art of graffiti. Determined to pick up a spray can himself, he sought out art classes to develop his skill. Over time, the young skater found himself more drawn to what he was learning in the art classes than at the skate park. So, at the age of 14, “I sat my parents down and told them I would become an artist,” he recalls. “My mother had dreams of me becoming a doctor but I wouldn’t take no as an answer. I’ve been making art ever since.”

His somewhat unconventional path into fine art has had a lasting effect on Amir’s style: “I am an Iranian-American immigrant who entered art through two of America’s best underground subcultures. All of my work is born from these early experiences of cultures colliding”. Though he has lived in the US for the majority of his life and feels “very Americanised”, the artist explains that his paintings allow him to tap into his Iranian roots and “hold onto them”. As a result Amir’s work is a melting pot of references to “high and low” culture, “old and new, east and west”. The effect is both overwhelming and mesmerising.

The sheer complexity of Amir’s compositions are enough to keep you occupied for hours. You Can’t Use Old Maps to Explore New Worlds is a vivid example of this. The recumbent figure on the left of the painting clothed in sumptuous embroidered robes recalls the intricate style of Iranian miniature painting. But this figure is far from home – suspended in a geometric world of bright colour, he hovers above an ancient map with the mischievous cartoon character Curious George dotted around the composition's edges in bright orange squares. Amongst all the noise of these visual references, a harmonious sense of order is felt through the geometric grid which divides up the composition.


Amir Fallah: You Can’t Use Old Maps To Explore Now Worlds (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2020)

Considering the intricacy of each painting, you’d imagine Amir’s creative practice to be pretty hectic. The reality is quite the opposite. “After many years of making work at a rapid pace I’ve slowed down my process,” he tells us. Rather than filling the gaps between projects experimenting desperately to land upon something new, Amir is happy to sit, wait and “marinate” his ideas. Sometimes he will contemplate an idea for a few years before finally deciding to paint it.

When it gets to this stage, his first port of call is his computer. “I never draw”, he tells us. Instead he will carefully compose digital sketches and collages which he then interprets into paint. The final painting stage can then take another one to three months, he adds.

With admiration for such a wide range of artistic cultures and influences, it’s no surprise that painting is not the only medium Amir works with. In fact, one of his favourite bodies of work is a series of stained-glass windows he completed in 2021. This was the longest project he has ever worked on and his first large-scale installation for the city of LA which he called Portals. The title is apt. Light filters in through the glowing centres of four stained-glass windows bordered by the unfurling forms of plants and flowers. The ethereal effect is indeed one of looking through a portal to another world.

Next on his list of creative disciplines to crack is NFTs. Since last year he’s been slowly releasing works that exist digitally. With his track record of elegantly progressing from skateboarding and graffiti, to fine art and stained glass, we have no doubt that his endeavours in the digital realm will be just as successful.


Amir Fallah: You can’t teach what you don't know (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2020)


Amir Fallah: You can’t teach what you don't know (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2021)


Amir Fallah: They Will Smile To Your Face, (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2020)


Amir Fallah: What Hurts Blesses You (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2020)


Amir Fallah: Build Borderless Worlds (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2021)


Amir Fallah: The Sound Of Silence (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2021)


Amir Fallah: Portals (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2021)

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Amir Fallah: From Dog To a God (Copyright © Amir Fallah, 2021)

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About the Author

Elfie Thomas

Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.

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