Roulette In the Hourglass Chambers: An Interview with Painter/poet SHalha ROsa


SHahla ROsa

Shahla Rosa’s paintings have been important to this me for some time.  Though I can’t recall exactly when I discovered her work, I remember her painting–“Andre Breton”–being on virtually every website having remotely to do with Surrealism (sadly, many of these websites no longer exist.)  Her labyrinthine cascades of oil, paint, and her ability to bring the magic of Surrealism to any time period made her a must for the NSI–she even joined our group!  Speaking with her, I got the impression of a happy artist–that rare breed content to pursue her craft and not trouble others about it.  Enormously successful, her work has been featured in MOMA, International Surrealist Exhibitions, and venues all around the world.  She graciously granted me an interview two weeks ago.  Her website can be found here:

702_1_1a_ANDRE_BRETON_by_Shahla_Rosa_2008_NewJohn Thomas Allen-When did you begin painting, what made you decide to pursue the “surrealist path”?

SHala ROsa- I started painting at very young age and in the collage, I was very curious in imaginary and dream art work as well as in literature ( in general). The public didn’t have access to computer or Internet, so library was the best place to discover all kind of materials for time being. When I found what I was looking for as ” Great Masters in the History Of Painting ” & ” Contemporary Painters and Writers “, I couldn’t stop learning about them.

Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel, were the ones attracted me for ever, and I was fascinated by their power and abilities in their art till today.

John Thomas Allen-What surrealist writer/painters are the most important to you? How do you feel the two mediums interact?

SHalha ROsa- There are many writers, I enjoy reading their works from, great philosophy, spiritual, or abstract writers, but in surrealist, I must admit Breton is my favor, he talks about my thought and thats what I’m looking for. I don’t think anybody else could have such abstract imagination or true subconscious as well as courage to sit the unfamiliar words together and make sense of it. So it goes with painters or any kind of art as well, as I mentioned, Bosch & Bruegel are two most fascinating ones.

If I understand you correctly, the two mediums are inseparable, as an example.  You will have noticed my series of Breton’s paintings, they are an interpretation from his books and his intricacies of thought with his language characteristic that goes beyond his subconscious. Everything in this world as we see or not able to see are somehow connected with each other, we just have to reach the high point of self realization to discover them one by one, and when we do and step in to that point, there is no return, you jut wouldn’t want to get away from it, it is a  pure fantastic world that keeps you, rich and independent for what you want to do.

John Thomas Allen-As a female artist, what female artists do you feel the closest kinship with? And what men?surreal_exhibit

SHala ROsa- I think this one is a hard question to answer, because, they are working in a level of their art career, have mostly different style according to their personality and thoughts. As you noticed my paintings are the most intricate subconscious surrealist, and they are something that I can not finish in one day or maximum in a week, it takes least 3-4 months to complete, they are the essence of my soul, like giving birth to a new born. it takes a mother to carry her fetus for 9-months to complete the creation, can’t be done in a month, my paintings have the same process for me to get everything from deep down out and transfer them on to the canvas, sometimes the design might be changed several times to form the characters in their right place, and I don’t think what I do would be every artists’ cup tea, for least to DO, they might enjoy or admire or even hate this kind of art work, but not practically doing it and going through such long process. That’s part of doing, is what I’m doing now to be recognized and known through my art, cause my art is what I am and if the world feel and understand them I have succeeded.

John Thomas Allen-What do you feel the root of Surrealism is? And how do you feel about  terms”Neo-Surrealism”? What does that term mean to you?

4915360498_c1c98838fe_oSHahla ROsa- I believe the root of surrealism is pure subconscious and nothing else, and its the pure metamorphosis of thought, that we still might not know about. If someone like Breton, Max Ernst, Dali or me, know and have the courage to revealing the unseen, create a movement, that start provoking readers or viewers’ mind and make them think. Thinking itself is an art of self-knowledge and slowly make others feeling thirsty to learn and search.

Surrealism has an extreme bright future, no matter what you call it “Neo, or Modern Surrealism “, the future belongs to SURREALISM–only it might be in a different pathway. The young generation’s extreme attraction toward imagination and visualizing gives me a strong hope to work harder and make sure that I do my best to contribute my part to this fantastic field.  It is already making a huge progress in movies, and computer games, music, comic books, extra…extra.

The more sophisticated the technology, the better surrealism is established, and it is already part of our every day life and going beyond our imagination

As we know Art & Science work together side by side.

John Thomas Allen-Right. Who are some of your favorite surrealist painters in the contemporary world? Poets?

SHahla ROsa- I love to browse around some of the artists’ work and enjoy them, no matter male or female, but what is attracted me deeply are those, I feel they have reached to their peak point of their subconscious.

I believe Zdzistaw Beksinski, Is the one. He has reached to the point without any doubt.  When I look at his art works, I can walk barefoot with my eyes wide open and feel the tensity in the scenery, the same feeling I have in my own work. The atmosphere is heavy and morphed into each other without having too many lines except a few, the whole became one piece, you can’t separate them. Surrealist artist should feel this way to be able to create their themes, it is very strange, even when I go just for a walk, I feel the tensity of my environment, a sense of pushing myself through an invisible crowd and atmosphere which they tide together softly and creating a milky shape of galaxy, yet on earth. Those are the one appears on the canvas, to me they are an invisible garden of delight.

 Zdzistaw Bekinski

Zdzistaw Bekinski

In poetry even though I read a lot, but unfortunately I haven’t enough time to search for all of them, but I enjoy going through their works to get enough satisfaction.


John Thomas Allen-My favorite painting of yours’–one among many–is predictably enough, “Andre Breton”, done on oil canvas. What was going through your mind when you did that painting?

There’s the image of a nun’s head in the far back, Breton’s hand is holding a glove of sorts.

Anonym: André Breton, 1924

Wearing the shades

I think I’ve sniffed the imaginal molecules of that painting without ever having seen the original.

SHahla ROsa- All I did was to interpret his intricacies of taught and transferred them on canvas, but as I mentioned before, its a long process of appreciating his meaning, word by word and communicating with his writings to get the essence of his abstract words, Thats, when the deep tensity appears, tangled with each other and became one piece.

The advantage of surrealist is that the viewers are free to feel what matches their mind, so what ever you received as a message, that would be the correct connection.

John Thomas Allen-What are your thoughts on Surrealism since Andre Breton and the original Parisian group? Franklin Rosemont, Penelope Rosemont, the Chicago School? Where do you see it heading?

SHahla ROsa- Breton was an exceptionally gifted man, but Surrealism had existed for a long time before him–in Painting and philosophy as well as literature, many others did centuries ago before him. Those were who reached their peak of their subconscious many centuries ago and were definitely ahead of their own time, so the people couldn’t accept what they were talking about, but their idea never vanished and stayed till someone else start taking over and introduce it to new generation, till in early 20th Century Breton rose and a new renaissance start blooming, he himself was a couple of Centuries ahead of his time, so the followers tried to keep his movement alive even though there weren’t many till later.

Franklin and Penelope Rosemont continued in the United States and together with the Chicago school, their establishment became official . Now in early 21th- Century, we are the group of Breton’s followers and others in Visionary art going fast forward and nothing can stop us. You have heard it said:  “Ideas in a movement need to be attempted in life, even if they can’t always be mastered.”

John Thomas Allen: And I understand you’re now delving into the medium of poetry?

SHahla ROsa: Yes.  My collection, “eyes of the seven gate”, is available from

41leyNiseOLJohn Thomas Allen:  I will be ordering that soon!  Thank you, Shahla, for being so gracious and granting me this interview.

SHahla ROsa:  Thank you, John.  And thank you for the poems!


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