Amin Roshan

It is not easy to say why I have chosen oil as a theme for my last collections. Being born into a family working in the oil industry and living in a land rich in oil is not the sole answer. The main reason may be its excessive impact and influence not only on my life and family but also on the geography of Iran. British presence in the city of Masjed Soleiman, in southwestern Iran, brought about the onset of Iranian and Middle Eastern industrialisation. Britons lived there for 60 years, some were born and others died in Masjed Soleiman and their graves can still be seen with English engravings; the only intact relics. However, I see a lot of British remnants around me, such as the British effect on my Bakhtiari tribe’s language and dialect, which still uses English words. I was also influenced by this.
I was born where the first oil well in the Middle East was discovered, in the Naftoon district of Masjed Soleiman city located near the border of Iran and Iraq. The British built big beautiful houses here with a small garden in the courtyard in which they lived and after the nationalization of oil they gradually left and returned the houses to the heads of the National Oil Company. Behind our house, there was a large stream, and sometimes the stream was full of oil. In fact, a thin layer of oil was floating on the water surface. It seemed a little scary, because I was very small, and I could not jump over the stream like my friends. It was always troublesome for me and my shoes were stained with oil. I used to walk back home and wipe off the stain with difficulty, because crude oil was very difficult to clean; that is, it should be washed with refined oil, first, then it should be washed with detergents. Oh, my poor mother! Around us was full of pipes, large and small pipes with taps on them. Some of them are still there. We always walked and played on them. Some friends who were older than me walked over the pipelines passing across a valley with pride.
My grandfather was a hardworking laborer who worked on these oil wells for many years. After retirement, he was replaced by my father who retired after 34 years and, in turn, my older brother took my father’s place. I was 12 years old when my family left the city because of toxic gas release, but all the memories are still vivid. The smell of oil streams, childhood games with tar, walking over oil pipelines on the way to school ..., all are still alive for me. Today I draw from these childhood images and memories to paint on canvas using crude oil. I supply my required materials and crude oil from a valley located in Masjed Soleiman and sometimes from relatives working for the National Oil Company. Crude oil is very thin and actually I use two materials. One of them is the crude oil accumulated in that valley for perhaps 100 years that is a rigid material and the other material is crude oil that is diluted. I combine the two substances and make a balance between them to finish my work with silk screen printing.
It is certainly a difficult task, because many times I have painted and finished my work except for printing using oil and the printing has not come out right. The oil may have been too thin or too thick or too hot therefore burning the mesh or too cold, and so on. But, I have started again and I have spent another two weeks, for example, painting and printing and again it has not worked out. Of course, it seldom happens nowadays, but it still may happen.
Growing up in southern Iran, the Bakhtiari tribes were never far away. Mostly nomadic before the arrival of the oil industry, they made their living through animal husbandry, carpet weaving, etc. I have not been indifferent to their motifs, and I have used them, sometimes insensibly. If you look at my works more carefully, you can see that in most of my works, the pipes, industry and metals play a more prominent role than men. Of course, all my works are composed of humans and metal.
I do not talk about oil in my works, rather I try to portray the culture that has come with oil, a kind of British oil culture and fragrance.