As a young artist and multidisciplinary designer, Toufan Hosseiny works with different materials to create a universe inhabited by imaginary characters and narratives.
Her work revolves around the anguish of being watched, the search for identity and the obsession to repeat the same gestures over and over. The characters and masks that she creates – monsters that haunt us, monster memories, monster places, monsters that we worship – are born of an interaction sometimes alarming, sometimes playful, with a world filled with beings and objects, that surround and observe her.
Toufan is a friend of The Peep, having being feature in both a journal issue and recently answering our Top 10 questions. We caught up with Toufan to talk about her career journey, what inspires her work and her new jewellery collection Phénomène.
Going back to the beginning of your career, how did you get started? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I think I still don’t really know. Deep inside I’ve always considered myself as an artist. But what is an artist really?
I’ve started studying fashion design for three years (in Brussels, where I’m from), thought it wasn’t really for me, did four years in graphic design were I was mainly having fun mixing those two disciplines together and ended up creating a gallery of ‘monsters’ (masks) for my master degree show. After my studies I wanted to continue to create, be an artist, I went to London instead and started to work as a graphic designer for a few years. After a while I felt that, as a graphic designer, I wasn’t able to express myself the way I wanted to. So I started to go back to my work as an artist, discovered a passion for embroideries and was given an opportunity to exhibit in an art gallery in Brussels. I am still in between disciplines, freelancing as a graphic design to earn some money and creating on the side. It’s all about finding the right balance I guess.
Imaginary characters and narratives play a big part in your work. What is it that sparks your interests so much?
They’ve just been following me since my childhood. My parents, who are both from Iran, had me one year after they arrived in Belgium. We didn’t have a lot of money and as a single child I had to create those characters to play with and tell stories. Some are gone, and some are still with me.
Where do you find inspiration?
There is something about obsession and paranoia in my work. I don’t like to be noticed, but I constantly observe people myself and have that feeling that everyone is looking at me and judging me. As a child, each objet was alive and a friend to me, but growing up I became anxious about them because they were constantly observing me. My work as an artist helps me to express and play down that feeling, with a touch of humour. This is why the eye (‘I’ because it talks about me) is so present in my work. Watching ‘The Truman Show’ (movie) didn’t help.
What do you love most about what you do?
That it is my way of showing who I really am, express what I can’t say in words. That I can experiment and do what ever I want. That it’s a moment for myself.
Is there anyone’s work you admire?
Louise Bourgeois. Especially her textile work.
What’s your workspace like?
I am a nomad. I work sometimes from home, on my sofa or on the coffee table, and I share a studio with my boyfriend and a good friend of us in Hackney Downs. I like to have several work places depending on my mood, what I am working on, if I want to be alone or see people. I like the place to be tidy even if it might get messy while I’m working. The essence of the place, what surrounds me, is really important to me, I need to connect with it to be able to work.
What’s your opinion on taste and style?
It’s what defines you. You need to respect who you are and not follow the trends.
You’ve recently launched your new accessories collection – Phénomène, congratulations! How did that come about?
During my last year in graphic design I took a course in accessories and started to develop a small collection of jewellery the year after. They were made with porcelain eye balls. From there I’ve started to be really curious about jewellery design, took an evening course in London, and developed a few pieces in relation to my work as an artist. The jewellery were quite successful and made me decide to create a brand, a platform, where I could continue to explore and maybe collaborate with other people in the future.
Can you tell us any interesting stories behind any of the designs in your new collection?
This won’t surprise you but there is always an eye somewhere. It can be quite visible or become totally abstract.
What’s next for you?