As a child, Seife came across a large book in his aunt’s closet. The book was on the work of Vincent Van Gogh and the young Seife immediately became enamoured with the Dutch artist’s paintings. Although the post-impressionist may not have directly inspired the types of artworks Seife now creates, the discovery of Van Gogh’s oeuvre sparked the artist’s passion and interest in visual art at a very young age. A parallel can perhaps be found between the two artist’s apparent interest in colour and intertwining forms. Van Gogh’s free and swirling brushstroke does not appear to relate to the immaculate surfaces of Seife’s pieces, but it can perhaps be compared to the artist’s fluidly interweaving floral patterns. Seife cites Van Gogh’s A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889) as a key inspiration; it was the first artwork that he truly fell in love with. One can imagine how Van Gogh’s experimentation with vibrant colours and undulating shapes influenced Seife who states: ‘I would love to ask Van Gogh how he feels about his work now being some of the most important in art history when it was not well received during his lifetime.’
Vincent Van Gogh, A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, 1889, oil on canvas, 72.1 x 90.9 cm (Credit: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/vincent-van-gogh-a-wheatfield-with-cypresses)
With Van Gogh as the first stepping-stone into the vast history of art, Seife began to notice different artforms, including the intricately woven carpets that adorned the walls and floors of his relatives’ homes. His early works were somewhat derivative of these carpets, but as he began to gain greater knowledge of the medium, he started to create his own designs that are both aesthetically and conceptually pleasing. After travelling to Iran, Syria and Turkey, Seife’s love of design and, particularly, architecture began to strongly influence his artwork. The walls of mosques, homes and other buildings he came across during his travels have directly inspired the concrete works he produces.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image courtesy of Jason Seife.
In particular, Seife indicates the art that came out of Iran during the Safavid Dynasty as one of his greatest inspirations. The Safavid Dynasty, emerging in the early sixteenth century is considered the greatest dynasty to arise from Iran during the Islamic period. During this time, artists were brought together from different courts to create a unified style of painting with many textiles and carpets being produced from luxurious materials. Seife often references the Safavid period within his paintings, drawing inspiration from the painterly approach of the carpet makers and their intricate floral motifs.
Silk Animal Carpet, second half 16th century, made in Iran, probably Kashan, silk, asymmetrically knotted pile, 241 x 178 cm (Credit: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/446642)
Seife indicates that, as his work has matured, his inspirations have broadened, and they constantly change over time. Fashion has a great influence on his work; certain colours, textures and fabrics can inspire the way he paints. Seife speaks of an indirect inspiration that can occur when he reads a powerful book, watches a film or listens to an album. These do not necessarily directly influence his artwork, but they inspire an emotion within him that pushes him to work harder and focus in order to create something that can elicit the same kind of feeling in someone else.