Asadi's intricate hand-cut leaf art is all a rage now. Last year his artworks were auctioned in Milan to raise funds to provide clean water in Tanzania. To this Manchester-based Iranian artist, leaves are representative of our "too short" lives. Hence he yearned to give the leaves "longer life" through art.
But, it is only accidentally that Asadi discovered the potential of fallen leaves' contribution to the art world. Two years ago, as he went on his walks he began collecting various leaves and storing them in between pages of heavy books, before sticking them on the wall. "But after two or three days they would not be flat anymore," he recalls. His desire to keep the leaf "alive" would often lead him to write poems and draw on the unflattened leaves. "Finally I decided to cut and carve some part of those drawings."
It takes anywhere between three days to up to a month to make a single leaf-cut artwork. Till date Asadi, has made over 40 artworks — portraits of Bob Marley, Che Guevera, Lincoln, scenes inspired by poems, short stories and more. "For me art is my way of looking differently at the world around me," says Asadi who often quotes a verse by an anonymous person: Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a lot to love a leaf. It's ordinary to love the beautiful, but it's beautiful to love the ordinary.
"I began to think why nobody paid attention to these beautiful leaves and trod on them. It is because of their name — if they were called flowers we wouldn't tread on them at all! I wanted to give leaves another life through art. That was my first step to becoming an artist."
99% of the leaves used in Asadi's work are collected by him during autumn. "But sometimes I collect green leaves too. It depend on what I want to create," he says. "The leaves give me an idea about what I want to create."
Asadi uses craft knife/scalpel and needle for his intricate work. "Unlike drawing or cutting a paper, leaf-cutting is tricky. Each part needs different kinds of pressure while cutting. If I make a single mistake, I might destroy hundreds of hours of work."
Obviously, Asadi's work has taught him patience. "This kind of work needs tremendous concentration and way too much practice." Mostly, Asadi draws the designs directly on the leaves before cutting. "Sometimes, I even do freehand cutting," he reveals. After cutting, he sticks the leaves on a cardboard with white glue. "This can be challenging because it is very easy to destroy all that you have made at this stage," he says.
Asadi's work is inspired by poems, stories, "a good picture, painting or a design. I have no idea how ideas come to my mind. It just does," he says. Each of his works, says Asadi, has a "conceptual message". Most of them are self-explanatory.
About his affinity to leaf-cut famous personalities, he says: "They are not just an image. It shows that even if their biological life is over — like a fallen leaf — their acts and thoughts are still alive — like these art- leaves. Think John Lennon, Che , Rumi, Omar khayyam...." But the singular important message that Asadi wishes to spread through his art is: "We need to learn to 'see' the world around us and to 'see' it differently. Also, sometimes you fall only to become something more valuable." Just like the fallen leaves that become treasured pieces of art in the hands of Asadi. "You should always keep up the hope. And stand up, each time you fall."
Currently, Azadi is collaborating with the Spanish artist Lorenzo Duran ("whose work I respect") for an exhibition to be held in the near future.
Asadi is married to a Persian artist Elham Rafiei. "I am an artist today because of her," he says candidly. It is also one of the reasons, he says, he signs her name beside his in all his works. Asadi sure does 'see' things differently!
Check out Asadi's Facebook Page.