Neshan Magazine-11-Autumn 2006
It's impossible to imagine Dr. Nuredin Zarinkelk in white uniform behind the counter in the pharmacy or laboratory. He is a graduate of pharmacology from the University of Tehran and had he pursued his profession after his academic studies we would have been deprived of seeing his many animation films and extraordinary children's books.
The walls at Zarinkelk studio are covered with pictures of his latest animation in the United Nations plus a couple of other ones. On every part of his big and yellow colored table lay books and papers related to a certain project; in the middle of the table a big glass full of sharp black pens.
There is a special humor in his voice, the same humor that exists in every part of his works. For recording this interview he asks me to go to a room in his house that he calls his private quarters. Working and living in the same place is particular of his generation. The generation of Kanoon (The Center for Children and Youths Intellectual Education) is just about the right title. Although this generation's peak of blooming belonged to the 70's and 80's but Nuredin Zarinkelk is still very hardworking and to this attribute sincerity and peace must be added too.
Saed Meshki: Prior to interviewing you I was wondering what part of your activities we should talk about. You have been quite active in children's book illustration, graphic design and especially in animation. Naturally, since Neshan is a specialty magazine let's focus on your activities in graphic design.
Nooreddin Zarrinkelk: Incidentally, animation can be a topic of our discussion. So far, animation has been classified as an area related to cinema but in my opinion animation is a balanced combination of visual arts particularly graphic design and cinema because from the first frame in an animation film various branches of the visual arts such as painting, graphic design and even three-dimensional visuals play a role in it. In the recent few years my colleagues and I in the Iranian ASIFA society have aimed to explain the position of animation with regards to graphic design and cinema. Some graphic designers are top notch artists who have given their works a cinematic or dramatic expression and they have been as successful in that as in graphic design. One of these renowned graphic designers is Jan Lenica whose animation works are each a masterpiece.
SM: Perhaps one of the reasons that animation is not examined as a graphic design is because of motion in it, understanding one image is subject to the next one and the scenes collectively find meaning rather than individually reviewed. It is an occurrence through time.
NZ: What you say does not negate what I am saying. Yes, in animation the viewer follows the narration of the story and the general viewer neglects the graphic aspect whereas each one of the bricks of this structure has been constructed by design and graphics.
SM: Can painters enter this domain?
NZ: Absolutely. If you see the films of Carolyn Labeff (Canadian) or Alexander Petrov (Russian) you will understand to what extent painting can be film and how exciting painters' animation films are.
SM: As someone who has been active in both areas of graphic design and animation how have these backgrounds been of help to you? To be more specific in some of your illustrations there is some kind of motion, a hidden animation.
NZ: If this is so it is purely internal and self-inflicted. I can't really say whether graphic design is more effective in my cinematic works or motion in my graphic design. This depends on the nature of the work. Perhaps that's why my works have little resemblance to each other and in some of them it is difficult to tell if they were done by the same artist.
SM: It seems that the illustrations in a book are like an animation in which the images in between have been dissolved in each other. A very good example is seen in the books 'Story of Carpet Flowers" and "Crows". Although the illustrations are different in every scene but there is flowing motion in the pictures that creates a kind of association between them. I am pointing to this kind of motion and the reciprocity that exists between illustration and animation.
NZ: May be for me who does illustration and animation in parallel this exchange exists and perhaps the next sequence has been projected in my mind. It may be the influence of animation in my mind. In works where the author and illustrator or the author and animator are the same person this becomes more perceptible because when the story or subject of animation takes on a form in the mind its graphical structure also takes shape. So if I give my story to someone who may be much better illustrator than I am, the pictures he illustrates do not satisfy me because the atmosphere in my mind and my perceptions are different from his. Sometimes I am asked as to why I have used a particular technique for so and so film or book. The answer is I did not choose. The story chose its illustrative technique as both of these are born together like twins. Although writing a story or developing a subject is much less time consuming than making a film or book illustration but in cases where the author and illustrator are one the birth of the two happens simultaneously.
SM: Perhaps this is why graphic design and animation share more with each other than painting and animation. Because the graphic designer can find a technique and method that conforms to the subject and he can adapt himself to it as well. This is while a painter cannot easily detach himself from his personal method.
NZ: Perhaps some kind of escape from oneself is necessary. A particular energy is needed to leave one realm and go into another. This movement is contingent upon giving importance to the subject of illustration or animation. This capability and flexibility must exist in the designer to adapt himself.
SM: Another issue in your works relates to your interest in traditional Iranian motifs and paintings evident in your medical posters, medical packaging, in your animations to some extent and especially in your illustrations. What course did you take to arrive at this use?
NZ: I did not learn painting academically. I took the traditional routes to come to this area. During my study years, in the summers I used to go to the only then independent institutes, the Academy of Fine Arts and Kamal al-Molk academy. In those classes various subjects such as illustration, miniature, pottery, design and painting (Kamal al-Molk style) were taught. I was limited to these perspectives and there were little modern visual resources that I could feed on. These learning however piled up in me and I designed and painted with little means. Gradually, I found my way to work with Children's Keyhan magazine and I designed their front cover. Then Etela'at Javanan magazine (Youths Information) was founded and I was recruited. I used all my ability to produce works for youths too after a period of designing for children. Naturally, I tried to design works suitable for that age range. In fact, I was doing some kind of self-education. In 1961 I went to Franklin Publications. In those years the authorities had decided to renovate the textbooks by adding more pictures and change the appearance and contents. This decision coincided with my going to Franklin Publications. Meanwhile, in that year I was a student of pharmacology as well. That was my launching plateau because at medical school I had access to a wonderful archive of natural figures. My mind was becoming more open and various doors from the world of illustration were being opened for me. In that period our break time was considered designing covers for pocket books that were first introduced by Franklin Publications. These books being inexpensive and small with new look became very popular. There was more freedom in that work and it was easier and didn't have the constraints of textbooks. In that same period I began my first work of illustration for children's books with the book, 'The Legend of Simorgh' and then continued with other books until I finally went into Center for Children and Youths Intellectual Education (Kanoon). I spent the 50's with magazines and journals. In the 60's with Franklin Publications and text books and the 70's with Kanoon. I mentioned these to point to my introduction to the world of graphic design and illustration through a non academic route and use of my knowledge that I had learned of traditional arts at the beginning.
SM: Don't you think not having gone through academic education was useful for you and it left you with more freedom?
NZ: Fact of the matter is that I cannot compare. Perhaps if instead of the six years that I spent at the school of pharmacology I had attended the art university seriously I would have gained more speed and learned the basics more profoundly and perhaps moved with more meaning. This is my perception. Or I might have become more discouraged and went another way. I have seen people who have entered the university with passion and excitement and have left it neutral and passive. These examples can not be generalized though.
SM: Your studies in pharmacology apparently became useful in later years. I mean in the period of executing the generic pharmaceutical visual design.
NZ: The generic pharmaceutical plan was a great project that was related to people's benefits and the society in general and it involved an important topic that is the society's health. Unfortunately though the authorities failed to reflect the value of this great work. With this plan big pharmaceutical companies were by passed and pharmaceutical industry in the country found an unprecedented independence. It was a vital job. In the years where there was almost no artistic activity I was busy with a very heavy project. It was a detailed project and not one day passed without making a poster, a brochure or books or magazines. During a 4 year long operation hundreds of pieces were produced but unfortunately these works were not collected.
Our job was to educate physicians who were used for years to medicine brand names and they had a hard time using the difficult generic terms. By bombardment of advertisement we had to make them accept the idea. It was in that period when the science of pharmacology came to my help. This period is a very constructive era in my professional life and I learned a lot with regards to graphic design and cultural-scientific advertisement.
SM: Thank you.