Illustrator and artist Oliver-Bijan Daryoush and “The Conference of Dreams”

From New York to London, Oliver-Bijan talks us through their first-ever solo exhibition, and finding a voice among Iranian mythology, music, and Lyra pencils.

9 June 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

“I’ve been making for as long as I can remember,” illustrator and fine artist Oliver-Bijan Daryoush tells It’s Nice That. “I didn’t speak that much for the first years of my life, so I would use drawing and create as a means of communication.” Based between London, Paris, and Los Angeles, the New York-born artist creates beautiful, evocative, and oftentimes emotional illustrations of Iranian mythology and poetry. When looking at these pieces, there is no mistaking Oliver-Bijan’s distinct trademarks: twilight-infused colour palettes, surreal portraits of serene figures against a moving tropic, and ever-changing shapes and forms. Out of the inability to communicate as an infant, Oliver-Bijan has succinctly crafted a series of works that does all the talking for them.

Oliver-Bijan attributes this intense communicative style in his work to his time spent at a Waldorf school when he moved to the UK as a young child. “It was a blessing to attend, looking back at it now. I was there for ten years growing up.” Waldorf schools, also known as Steiner schools, implement a method of education that is more holistic, and that aims to cultivate creativity and communication within the pupils rather than follow a standardised national curriculum. “They gave every student their own box of the Lyra pencils, and [that’s] where I first became introduced to well-made materials,” Oliver-Bijan recalls fondly. The Lyra pencils were something which followed Oliver-Bijan even through their time studying in London, as they would often ask their brother to “steal them from the lost and found pencil box for me,” they say. Drawing has clearly taken to Oliver-Bijan, and since then they have been moving towards “renovating what the definition of a drawing really means.”

GalleryOliver-Bijan Daryoush (Copyright © Oliver-Bijan Daryoush, 2021)

When asked how they would describe their process and signature style, Oliver-Bijan finds it hard to describe. Whilst their form is clear, their exact visual language is one that can’t quite fit in the box of its contemporaries. “My style has definitely built up with line markings,” they begin. “I have found my language, but I have no idea how to really describe it.” These works are even harder to pin down, as they float somewhere between the lines of fine art and illustration. “I think you could say it’s a bridge of different starting points and destinations, like a bridge in a snowflake shape with different meeting points.”

The ephemeral nature of Oliver-Bijan’s process can be hard to find in their finished pieces, as they appear intensive and detailed. “I have weeks where nothing happens, and then I have weeks where so many ideas are shedding out and growing,” they explain. “Music is a big part of my process. I listen to music every single day – my housemates in London know that very well.” Considering how lyrical and majestic Oliver-Bijan’s portfolio appears, it is to no surprise that they so proudly tell us “music is my everything.” As for what inspires them, Oliver-Bijan references the myriad of Iranian poetry and mythology which they constantly turn to. “It started with my dad talking about them at home, where we had had the Shahnameh (the book of kings),” they explain. When asked about a particular favourite story from Iranian literature, they point out one in particular: “The Conference Of The Birds is really everything. It’s about living your life for yourself, and getting to that point through the process of life. I referenced my current solo show The Conference Of Dreams after that.”

Currently in New York, Oliver-Bijan has just opened the first-ever solo exhibition of their work. But, you would be fooled into thinking Oliver-Bijan wasn’t so wildly successful by their glowing humble and gracious demeanour. Perhaps, then, this is part of Oliver-Bijan’s charm in the art world. They have also recently come off the back of a wildly successful collaboration with the high fashion brand GmBh. The designer duo behind the brand first caught on to Oliver-Bijan’s work when they studied at Central St. Martin’s, and finally asked them to create a zodiac for their fall-winter 2020/2021 show. “Both designers at GmBh have origins that lie within the MENASA [Middle East, North Africa, South Asia] region, so for me, it was a chance to celebrate that,” they say. “I wanted to represent each other’s narratives, and to celebrate the historical-cultural exchanges between us in a new way.” Oliver-Bijan remixed the ancient horoscope from the ruling of Iskander, who ruled Iran during the 15th Century. Taking the Horoscope of Iskander, Oliver-Bijan implemented contemporary elements such as the image of two (presumably queer) men dancing together. Despite so much coming their way, Oliver-Bijan remains squarely excited about the present moment. Namely, they’re overjoyed about their current show. “It’s about living the human experience, daydreams memories and Iranian mythology.” And, of course, they add: “there is also a soundscape element.”

GalleryOliver-Bijan Daryoush (Copyright © Oliver-Bijan Daryoush, 2021)

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Oliver-Bijan Daryoush (Copyright © Oliver-Bijan Daryoush, 2021)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in May 2020 after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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