An Interview with Dr. Amir Pichhadze

Throughout this academic year, members of the Oxford community and I have been enthusiastically following the numerous artwork contributions that Dr. Amir Pichhadze, an Oxford alumnus, has been making at different university newspapers. In response to numerous requests, I took the opportunity to interview Amir over zoom to discuss his art work and recent 2021 spring collection which can be viewed online. I take the opportunity to share and reflect on his art and contributions at Oxford.

Dr. Amir Pichhadze, an inquisitive and insightful scholar with interests and capabilities in a wide range of subjects, such as the law of taxation, higher education systems and art among others has just completed an MSc in Education (Higher Education) at the University of Oxford. Yet, he has also been engaged with numerous other social and scholarly activities. For example, he represented some of his academic research at numerous forums such as the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group, the Center for Global Higher Education, the annual Oxford-Cambridge Exchange, the IBFD’s annual Postdoctoral International Tax Forum, among others. He also made numerous contributions as a writer for university based newspapers, such as his commentary on the role of tutorless tutorials in Higher Education, his reflections on the path towards peace in the Middle East, his book reviews, and his contribution to 2021’s Holocaust Memorial Day, in which he identified powerful examples from Jewish history in order to inspire people to overcome darkness. In addition, Amir served as Treasurer for the Oxford University Canadian Student Society.

In addition to producing impactful research, Amir is an exceptional visual artist. During his studies of the visual arts at York University, Dr. Ken Carpenter –who at the time was the Visual Arts Department Chair and President of the International Association of Art Critics – said that “in the history of the Visual Art Department we have not previously had an occasion like this where a student has shown the particular kind of ability that Amir has shown. We are very proud of Amir!.” At Oxford, Amir has been a frequent contributor to the creative teams of the university-based newspapers Cherwell and The Oxford Student. When asked about his artwork, Amir said:

“I used my time at the University of Oxford to do the things that I’ve always been interested in, because I think that it is amazing to see that the work you do will always have an impact on the causes you dedicate your time to. It is an incentive to further evolve and share”.

Amir’s artworks, which were commissioned to accompany and complement students’ writings, have added much to these students’ publications. The artworks provided relevant and masterfully executed imageries, added layers of meaning to the publications, while also invoking emotions and inspiration on their own. They expose that existence of multiple selves in a singular entity.

“….it is amazing to see that the work you do will always have an impact on the causes you dedicate your time to. It is an incentive to further evolve and share”.

For example, to accompany Katie Kirkpatrick’s poem titled ‘hand/face/space’, Amir created a scene of universal darkness within which he revealed, like constellations in the sky, images of grieving women. The contrast created by the brightly colored outlines, along with the women’s intense expressions and gestures, have the effect of invoking a powerful and intense mood and emotions. The circumstances and roots of these conveyed expressions are unknown, universal. These images capture an almost timeless, albeit melancholic, expression of the human experience.

To accompany Thomas McKeown’s comment titled ‘Great Thunberg’s Spitting Image Sketch and the Problem with Political Satire,’ Amir featured a surrealist oil painting of faces. Do these images represent the physical and psychological diversity that distinguishes individuals from one another, or is this the diversity which is inherent in each individual? Either way, the painting, through its imagery, style, and technique, powerfully conveys the intensity and complexity of humanity.

To accompany Gbenga Chesterman’s article titled ‘Moloch’, Amir shared another surrealist painting of a powerful man emerging from the dust of the ground, a powerful creature emerging from the void. The emergence of this figure from the dust of the ground is a strong presence in a background of absence.  Yet from the clouded background some supernatural hand erupts. Its gesture is captured just as it lays a finger on the man. The intentions of this supernatural hand are unknown. Either way, the man is submissive. With its head down, it waits for its faith. Emotions are messy and do not easily fit into words, they are cloud-like.

“The emergence of this figure from the dust of the ground is a strong presence in a background of absence.”

These are just some of Amir’s collection of artworks. In his spring 2021 collection, Amir debuts some of his abstract paintings, which were inspired by the artworks of his father, master artist Jacob Pichhadze. Made using the pastel medium, the paintings take their audience through the journey of flowing shapes that are filled with vibrant colors.

Asked about his next steps, Amir emphasizes his interest in continuing to pursue his lifelong philanthropic interests. He tells about the tradition of his father, Jacob Pichhadze, of using his art to raise funds to support different social needs, such as helping refugees, as well as charities of different kind. In previous years, Amir was likewise involved in organizing such fundraising campaigns, such as his art exhibition at York University which raised funds for student scholarship. Amir is keen on continuing with this path.

The University of Oxford is known for attracting talented and engaged students from all over the world, and this year’s cohort was no exception. Amir, among so many others within Oxford, is a source of inspiration and pride to our Oxonian community. His work is worthy of attention as he has accomplished to create new audiences of people that do not necessarily have anything in common yet are connected through his art.