Ashkan Honarvar’s paintings, drawings and collages are macabre and yet beautiful at the same time. When looking at them, you’re not sure whether you should look away or stop and stare. But one thing is for sure; all of the artist’s images are extremely intriguing.









Ashkan was born in Iran, but has been living and working in the Netherlands for twenty years. One of his most fascinating series of art is his Faces collection, which shows the physical and psychological wounds inflicted onto people by war.


Ever since Ashkan was young, art has been a way for him to escape reality. Growing up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, he used to constantly draw war scenes. From that moment on he knew this was something he wanted to do this for the rest of his life. War, and how people suffer post-war, is still his biggest source of inspiration today. He learns from medical photography and is fascinated by the way the human body reacts to diseases and injury. His fascination with the subject stems not so much from the disfigurations themselves, but more from his interest in their unusual shapes and his disbelief in their strange existence.


Central in all of Ashkan’s artwork is the darker side of the human body and mind. His mission is to find beauty in things that were once considered normal, but because of different circumstances in life – like war or disease – have become unacceptable according to the beauty standards of our society. He wants to add meaning to something which most people would consider to be revolting.


Ashkan’s remarkable artworks have already been the reason for heated discussion in the Netherlands. In November 2009, the exhibition Generation Y-2 – featuring controversial artworks from several Dutch artists – ended after only two days of exhibiting. The exhibition was called provocative and tasteless by press and politicians, and the artists had to either move all pieces to an alternative, less visible location or remove them altogether. They unanimously chose the last option since they all held the strong belief that censoring art is unacceptable in today’s society, especially in a liberated country like the Netherlands.

Ashkan’s Faces series is a work in progress and more pieces are still being added. They all have one thing in common — they show deformations and scars from war. For some handmade collages in this series, Ashkan used pre-existing pictures from the First World War, showing soldiers who were deformed while defending their country. He combined these original photographs with pictures of what caused their mutilation. And by placing these objects on the scars, it emphasises the reason for their suffering.

The pictures in the project Faces-5 show portraits of males with facial disfigurements. However, instead of big, bloody flesh wounds like one would expect, you see sweet, brightly coloured candy eating into faces. Ashkan chose this approach because he sees candy as a symbol for childhood and naivety. He believes people don’t understand how fragile and vulnerable human beings are and wants to convey this message through these images. Some might call Ashkan’s work greatly disturbing, other disturbingly great, but one thing is for sure; he gives a striking view of the darker sides of humanity that one would normally rather avoid.