Interview with Roshi Khalilian

There is an amazing power in art and I am not referring to its visual beauty or its grandeur.   It’s greatest power is in the way it communicates with people, the way it reaches to the hearts of people around the world and connects some of us that are divided by language, circumstance, or other differences. Art is unifying, harmonizing, and one of the most profound ways to connect with ourselves, each other, and with the universe.

I’ve always been interested in art, but what fascinates me even more than art itself is the hand that holds the brush, the person who creates. I guess that explains the countless books I’ve read and films I’ve seen, about various artists like Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Frida Kahlo, and Gustav Klimt. I can’t quite explain it but I always thought that art is incomplete without knowing who the artist is.
So today I am meeting this gorgeous Iranian-born Swiss woman who is a talented artist, a mother, a wife, and a woman who owns such a strong character that I can feel it, even through the emails we exchanged leading up to our meeting.

Knowing that I was about to meet a prominent name from the art world, I found myself kind of panicky about what to ask her and I had all these questions in my head all about her art, what it means, and why she uses this technique over another, but then when I met her, all I wanted to know was who is she and what’s her life experience, why she started to paint, what a day in her life looks like? And, this is what I learned….

Roshanak (Roshi) Khalilian is an independent world wide exhibited artist. She was born in Iran, lived and visited countless lands in the Middle East and Europe where she gained experience in several lifestyles, languages, religions and cultural values. She has a deep passion and understanding of ancient poetry and art history, is an avid reader, and knows more facts about the world than anyone I have met thus far. I am absolutely intrigued and want to know everything about her.

Roshi appears to greet me dressed head to toe in all black. I am immediately in awe of her natural, mature beauty. I look her in the eyes and immediately notice they are intense and piercing yet also kind.

Tsitaliya: How would you describe yourself in three words?
Roshi: I am someone who doesn’t like to overthink things, I don’t like to wait, to plan, I just get it done. When I have an idea, I want to start working on it immediately, I can’t wait…I love having fun, I love history and all the good and beautiful things in life. I am devoted and I value things. I don’t take things for granted.

Tsitaliya: How did you become an artist?
Roshi: My first encounter with art was surrealism: I remember it was Salvador Dali “Le Sommeil” and it really affected me. At that very moment I wanted to understand why he painted that picture, what at was going on in his head. Later when I joined the painting school (with old masters, as it is a norm in Iran) I met the most incredible artist woman and she told me, you will understand the artist when you start drawing. This is what in a way changed my life. I applied to  study at a private art school while I was still attending University for Languages & Linguistics …I was driven by the idea to understanding art. So I was 17 when I started sketching and drawing and I did that for four years without actually painting. But then I left for Dubai and I had to separate from my teacher, but in Dubai I started to paint under commission and I did an Acrylic Course at the local School of Art. I later moved to Bahrain and lived for several years there, having a little studio to paint and even sell some of my art.

The Hidden Beauties 2014
from the series All that Gold
80 x 80 cm
Acrylic on Canvas

Don’t take me for Granted –  8
2013 Mixed Media with Silver leaf
Acrylic on canvas


“The Flowers” 2016
From the series Confluence of Colors
100 x 100 cm
Mixed Media
Acrylic  and oil on canvas

“A line in defense of the Governor”  2017
From the series Confluence of Colors
100 x 100 cm
Mixed Media
Acrylic on canvas

Tsitaliya: Share with us a mentoring moment, an Aha Moment in your life?
Roshi: I think up to this day my aha moment will be living through war and understanding how precious life is. It’s really difficult to talk about the experiences you go through when you are in a war, but this made me always passionate about life, excited about the little things: reading a great book, watching a documentary, listening to music, and just loving my children and my family…..

Tsitaliya: How would you describe your work?
Roshi: I would call myself Abstract Expressionist My work is a symbol of the ambiguity and complexity of human nature, it evokes the polarity and contrasts of life. My paintings hold space for conflicting feelings and experiences such as hope and death, wealth and poverty, joy and sadness, the light and the dark aspects of hope in life. All these feelings are there, no denial, but all depends on which we pick.

“Seeking the Truth” 2016
From the series All that Gold
60 x 80cm 
Mixed media with gold pigmentation
  Acrylic and oil on Canvas

Tsitaliya: What did art teach you?
Roshi: To love, to live, to feel, to go to the depth of things,

Tsitaliya: Let’s talk about the mistakes you’ve done, the failures?
Roshi: Well because I am so positive about life, failures transforms to lessons of life and experiences to me in time. Of course there were some, but no regrets. I hardly can say there were failures, but the one thing I regret is not going to Art School in Florence. I was admitted, but I didn’t go and decided to stay in my comfort zone. However, if I had done this step that would have meant not meeting my husband back in Dubai.

Tsitaliya: Tell us about your childhood? What did your own mother teach you about life and motherhood?
Roshi: Devotion, love unlimited love and unlimited kindness and sacrifice. Put other people ahead of you.

Tsitaliya: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Roshi: Follow your passion, don’t give up, problems are here to be solved

Tsitaliya: Who is your modern icon, the person you admire and aspire to?
Roshi: Sohrab Sepehri, one of the most famous Persian poets, who keeps reminding us about the little things in life to cherish, Life is sipping tea, looking through the window. Of course I love Gustav Klimt and Modigliani and Rothko and many more artists and poets, and the fact that, how they have been seeing life is most interesting.

Tsitaliya: How do you juggle motherhood with creativity?
Roshi: Oh it is a constant battlefield, but I am always the winner… I just do. And I love to cook!

Tsitaliya: What kind of role model do you want to be for your children?
Roshi: I want to show them that when there is a will, there is a way, but there has to be a will. To believe in yourself! This is what my father taught me ….no matter what you do, just make sure you don’t harm anybody, have peace with your own self, accept and then move on….

Tsitaliya: Your list of daily loves (what do you love to do, the moments in your daily routine you cherish the most)
Roshi: The first sip of the coffee. I enjoy cooking lunch for my kids. I really cherish everything I do….

Tsitaliya: Typical breakfast?
Roshi: none 

Tsitaliya: On your bedside table you’ll find?
Roshi: A book

Tsitaliya: Book you’re currently reading?
Roshi: The Rival Queens

Tsitaliya: Heels or flats?
Roshi: Heels

Tsitaliya: Dream travel destination?
Roshi: Granada, Andalucia

Tsitaliya: Websites you regularly visit?
Roshi: Wikipedia

Tsitaliya: Must have essentials for your day
Roshi: powder and lipstick

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