The Art of Resistance: The Story of CK1 Keyvan S and His Farsi Graffiti in Tehran's Street
The Emergence of Graffiti as an Art Form in Iran
The turn of the millennium marked the beginning of a new artistic movement in Iran - the introduction of graffiti as a form of art. Prior to this period, the concept of "Graffiti as an Art" was virtually non-existent in the country. However, a few pioneering artists dared to bring this bold and expressive art form to the streets of Iran, forever changing the landscape of Iranian contemporary art.
Keyvan Shovir: A Pioneering Force in Iranian Street Art
Among these trailblazers was a young artist named Keyvan Shovir, known as CK1. At just 17 years old, Shovir became a seminal figure in introducing graffiti to the public in Tehran. His work, “The Law is Banned” (قانون قدغن), created in 2002, holds the distinction of being one of the first graffiti pieces in Tehran written in Farsi. This groundbreaking work was located in the west of Tehran, between Shahrak Apadana and Ekbatan, near the Tehran-Karaj Highway, capturing the attention of over a million viewers daily.
The Birth of a New Artistic Movement
At the time, graffiti was a foreign concept to many in Iran. Shovir’s work, therefore, not only introduced a new art form but also sparked curiosity and interest among the public and art community. Following this, graffiti began to be recognized as a legitimate form of art, gradually making its way into galleries.
The Role of Mehrva Gallery in Promoting Street Art
Mehrva Gallery was one of the first galleries in Tehran to take the initiative in introducing street art to a wider audience. They hosted group shows featuring graffiti artists, helping to legitimize and promote this burgeoning art form.
Keyvan Shovir: A Teenage Prodigy on the World Stage
Shovir’s talent was not confined to the streets of Tehran. As a teenager, his work was featured on the international television channel “Arte TV” alongside other well-known artists, including Shirin Neshat. This exposure marked Shovir as the first graffiti artist from Iran to gain recognition on the world stage.
Founding the "Street Rats" Crew
In addition to his individual work, Shovir also founded the first graffiti crew in Tehran, known as the “Street Rats.” This group was active for three years, creating numerous works in the West and Northwest parts of Tehran. Their goal was to inspire a younger generation of artists and aid in the development of street art in Tehran and other major Iranian cities like Tabriz.
Keyvan Shovir's Influence in Tabriz
Shovir's influence extended to Tabriz, where he attended university. In a city known for its cultural conservatism, he continued his graffiti work, playing a crucial role in introducing and developing street art in Tabriz. This expansion from university circles to the wider community marked a significant cultural shift in the city.
Merging Traditional Iranian Art with Street Art
Holding a BA in Painting from the University of Tabriz, Shovir's academic background allowed him to delve deeper into Persian traditional art and history. This study inspired him to blend elements of Iranian traditional art and calligraphy with street art, creating a unique and innovative style.
The Legacy of “The Law is Banned”
Though “The Law is Banned” survived only briefly on the streets of Tehran, its impact was lasting. It became an iconic symbol in Iranian street arts and even found its way into a Farsi hip-hop song about underground life in Tehran, illustrating its influence on contemporary culture.
Conclusion: A New Chapter in Iranian Art
Keyvan Shovir’s pioneering work in graffiti has opened a new chapter in Iranian art, merging traditional elements with modern expressions of rebellion and freedom. His journey from a teenage graffiti artist to an internationally recognized figure is a testament to the transformative power of art and its ability to transcend cultural boundaries.