Artival 2016 Artist Interview: ARSALAN CHALABI


Could you describe briefly your journey from your place of birth to Copenhagen/Denmark today?

In 2014, after the beginning of the Kubani resistance against ISIS (a terroristic group also referred to pejoratively as Daesh) in Syrian Kurdistan, demonstrations were staged in Iranian Kurdistan in the support of Kubani. I was one of the organizers who took part in the demonstrations in the city of Boukan. Unfortunately, I was arrested by security forces in the city after the event, and I was released on bail and threatened severely. After my release from prison I had to leave Iran and emigrate to Iraqi Kurdistan because the pressure and threats from the security forces got worse. After several months, I entered Denmark as a refugee. I have applied for asylum, and I am still staying at one of refugee camps here.

How have your life experiences, and your journey, influenced your art over the years?

The answer of this question is too long and I cannot talk about it here. I can say though that my life and the journey from Kurdistan to Europe have affected my artworks directly. I was only writing poetry back in Kurdistan. I started painting practically in Denmark. I am a poet and a painter, and both my poetry and artwork are inspired by my perspective on life. Generally, I see life in art. Life in the artistic world is beautiful and secure. On the other hand, I can also recognize that being in Europe and being so close to European culture and arts have not affected my artistic work very much. Perhaps the European lifestyle has had an impact on the type of art I produce, but the essence and context are always go back to my homeland: I express the pains and problems of my nation, Kurdistan, in my works.

MetamorphosisWhat is your favourite piece that is being exhibited during Artival 2016, and what is the history behind it?

My favourite painting is “Metamorphosis.” I like it so much and it relates back to the Kafka novella of the same title. I believe that modern humans are metamorphosed in one way or another. We are only humans outwardly … in reality we are nothing but scary monsters and killer machines which are ready to carry out very terrible crimes in order to benefit ourselves.

What has your participation in Artival 2016 meant to you personally, and to your life as an artist in Denmark?

Having the honour of participating in Artival was my first real introduction to the arts scene in Denmark, and it paved the way for me to get to know artists from other countries. It also helped me to go more in depth of the artistic society of Denmark. Participating in such a great festival was an obvious success for me as an artist, and hopefully I will be able to keep on making art. Since I have participated in two exhibitions, I am successful.


Arsalan writes literary text continually: poems, articles and he is also researching literature. He continues to paint and create new ideas to make his artworks tangible.He reads poems, stories and novels translated from Danish and is trying to get a better grasp of Danish literature. Arsalan hopes that he learns Danish quickly so that he can read Danish literature in the original language and not have to rely on translations.

Arsalan’s paintings are part of the ongoing Artival 2016 exhibition at PH Caféen, Halmtorvet 9A, Vesterbro until 30 October 2016.
Opening hours: Daily 11.00 – 22.00






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