Marco Djermaghian : full line

Marco Djermaghian is one of the rare Iranian skiers to possess a pair of black crows. An originality which alone deserves attention. But above all Marco has a sparkling spirit. Architect, painter, designer and passionate about nature, poetry, music or calligraphy, a meeting with a skier whose work and inspiration are a cross between those of the Orient and those of the West.

Marco à Kashan.
Marco in Kashan.

Born in Teheran four decades and a bit ago, Marco grew up in Iran until the age of 7. During this period, he went to the French school, spent several holidays in France to see his grand-parents and began skiing. All of four years old, it was is Dizin, in the Elbourz range north of Tehran where he made his first turns. It was, above all, his father who introduced and encouraged him to ski. “My father began to ski in France in the sixties before going to Iran and I think he fell in love with the mountains in Iran. There, he got hooked on skiing. But at that time, he also went skiing in France. Anyway, one day he took me. But he usually went there with my aunt Nadine who loved partying. That was more après-ski.” In 1980, the family left to settle in France, not that it was a direct result of the Islamic revolution.

Papa Djermaghian et tante Nadine, la belle époque.
Papa Djermarghian with ant Nadine, “la belle époque”.

Settled in Paris, Marco certainly skied less, two hours by car between Dizin and Tehran are a distant memory. However he regularly went skiing in France and Switzerland. He also spent a month with the school in a ‘snow class’ at Sauze, in the Southern Alps, during primary school. In Paris he passed his ‘bac’ and then went to prepare for scientific studies without much conviction. “Relatively quickly I realised that it wasn’t for me and decided to reorientate in a more creative direction. At that point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do art, cinema or architecture. Finally I decided to go to the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.” By choosing this direction, he was closer to the family’s line of work, his mother had studied at the New York School of Interior Design, his father at Arts Décoratifs in Paris. “They met in Tehran, at Knoll International where they both worked. Then they set up their own business, then a furniture factory.”

Dizin dans les années 1970.
Dizin in the 1970s.

He finished his studies in 2000, then returned to Iran for nine months for a building project. On his return to Paris, he worked for an agency which didn’t suit him, then he was taken on by an office in Amsterdam. In between times, his mother who had separated from his father and who had returned to Iran in 1996, had bought  a piece of land where there were old stables which had belonged to the king of Iran. Exit Amsterdam, return to Iran. “I went back in 2002 to build a house where there were the Reza Shah stables, near the Palace of Sadâbâd. It is a ‘townhouse’ in red brick from he north of Iran with a structure of steel and central garden on the last floor. The house has five floors which include two levels underground. : one opens on to the garden, it is a furniture and Iranian crafts showroom, the other is a a workshop for the moment. It is there that I both live and work. Up until the time that I go to Kashan. I will always be between these two towns.”

La “townhouse” de Téhéran.
The Teheran’s “townhouse”.

Since his return to Iran, the town of Kashan, situated 250 kilometres to the south of Iran, has become more and more important. An oasis town whose architecture is expressed by the depth of the half buried houses, which first attracted Marco’s mother who accepted to renovate a hotel and then one of these famous houses “Kashan, is a town situated between the Maranjab desert and the Karkass mountain range whose summit is at almost 4 000 m. It is now been ten years that I go there, following the renovation of the hotel Manouchehri House by my mother. After that she bought a house, then I did as well. The renovation of hers is finished mine is in progress.”

Les montagnes iranienne, une beauté qui laisse sans voix.
Iran mountains, a speechless beauty.

It was in Kashan that the author of this article met Marco for the first time and it is now time to find out how Black Crow products came to be in his hands and under his feet. “I found out about Black Crows one day when I went to Amir’s, my friend and neighbour (Amir Raieszadeh, pillar of the We Ride In Iran project Ed.), who that day was entertaining some Swiss guys, Arnaud Cottet and Benoit Goncerut. (Arnaud was at that point en route, with Loïs Robatel, to Afghanistan to make a ski film , see here, Ed.). They had brought, in their luggage, Black crow skis and poles never before seen in Iran. Straight away I fell in love with the shape, the colour and the design of the skis, and I took two pairs: a pair of yellow orb freebird, and a magnificent pair of blue green atris. Which I now I ski with.”

Des Atris sur Shemshak !
Atris over Shemshak !

Kashan progressively became his base camp, between the renovation of his house and the installation of a second workshop. This workshop, like that in Tehran, is not uniquely destined for architecture, because Marco has never traced a clear border between his diverse artistic affiliations, notably painting. “I have always drawn, but as for painting, that is relatively recent, via the slant of architecture. During my journeys to and fro between Tehran and Kashan, I discovered natural pigments (powders and stone) which are used in architecture in walls mixed with white cement, whitewash or plaster. So, I began to create my colours, my blends, which I then applied to different surfaces.I produce a colour and texture through the juxtaposition of the colours. It is something that I do alongside architecture and which is like a kata in martial arts. The search for the colour is like the repetition of a form fixed in a specific frame. It is the search for depth and perfection through repetition. So, when I paint, I don’t make a representation of something, but I make an object which is then placed in a space on a wall.”

Détail d’un tableau de Marco.
A detail from Marco’s painting.

What particularly animates Marco’s work is, without doubt, found in the intonation given to the first two letters of the word architecture. “Today, I concentrate on architecture and the the design of furniture: its that which I call my profession. But I don’t think that my practice to be very conventional and, anyway, what has always interested me, is the border between art and architecture, if it exists, and the converging points between the two. All that I learn about the colour can also be applied in design or architecture. In architecture, colour is a taboo subject, and at school, and also in practice white dominates. It is a pity, but I think that it is through ignorance and lack of confidence that this spirit has established itself.”

Rénovation de la maison de Kashan.
Kashan house renovation.

“On one side, for me, painting is a research of colour, like I said, through opposition of representing something. On the other side I don’t separate art and architecture/design. What which interests me in art in general, are those things which have an architectural aspect through their scale or nature and so in general which stand out from the physical and institutional space of a gallery or museum. The scale of architecture, that of a space which one crosses or occupies, is the type of experience which interests me, once again by opposition of the representation of such an experience. ”

Rénovation de la maison de Kashan.
Kashan house renovation.

If such questions challenge him, Marco sometimes takes the time to translate a poem by Rumi or Saadi, immortal Persian poets 17th century. And, if one day you cross his path, don’t hesitate to ask him to recite a passage. He will, without doubt, take pleasure in encircling you with a melody in English, French or Farsi for which you will only see after falling for an imaginary journey in the heart of the Orient. “ Here poetry has, for centuries, been the literary form par excellence, compared to novels or the theatre .

La calligraphie.

Before returning to Iran in 2002, I had very little knowledge of this culture. It was on coming back, while taking lessons in Persian, that I discovered poetry. And then, I started to translate it. Firstly into French and then into English, and particularly Rumi or Mawlānā, (« our master », Ed.) as one says here. A mystic Sufic poet of the 13th century. The greatest mystic poet of the Persian language. In Iran , people get-together for poetry evenings or afternoons, like one goes to a yoga lesson in France. A master, that’s to say a doctor of literature or an expert in Persian mystic, explains the texts which are sometimes difficult. He explains the invisible layers and hidden meanings. In a general manner, a little poetry appears everywhere in daily life. A taxi-driver can answer you by quoting Sa’di or Hâfez. This latter has a particular place in the heart of Iranians and is used as a divinatory art. You make a wish and open Le Divân by Hafez and he answers you through his poem. Obviously there is also an app..”

Il faut juste un peu de place pour les tableaux de Marco.
Just need a bit of space for Marco’s painting.

And if karate, the traditional lute or hikes and ski tours across the country’s numerous mountain ranges are not enough to quench the thirst of seeing, touching and learning. Marco also does calligraphy. And it is with a comparison between skiing and calligraphy that Marco turns the page of this first meeting. “The Persian style of Nastaliq calligraphy appears in the 16th century and represents the stylistic summit of Persian writing. I have always been fascinated by this script even before I started to do it. I remember looking at miniatures and calligraphies at home or in books in Paris, without really understanding how one can arrive at such perfection in the execution of the shapes.”

A table.
Lunch is ready.

“So, naturally, upon arriving in Iran in 2002, I decided to do lessons at the institute of calligraphy. A little like the katas previously mentioned, calligraphy is a meditative practice : one repeats and repeats the same shape entering in to the shape and the shape enters in to us. It’s like a set of mirrors where one judges the written form in relation to a model. We rewrite it so as to be nearer and nearer to the very precise standards, proportions where each letter is depicted by a number of points; a balance between black and white, between full and empty.

De petits personnages apparaissent parfois dans la calligraphie.
Little people sometimes appear in calligraphy.

“Other than this meditative aspect, calligraphy by its form and movement also has many similarities with skiing. We write with a cut reed. All calligraphers have several dozen, as well as knives for trimming them. Other than the pen, there is the ink, inkwell and the paper. All these must be in harmony in order to create beautiful calligraphy. There must be a union between the hand, the pen, the ink and the paper. The traces left on a page are a manifestation of the interior state. In one ultimate manner, without an intense love of writing, It is impossible to go very far: only with the desire to write and write again , one can advance and surpass oneself beyond the idea of competition.

Un succès qui ne se dément pas.
An ongoing success.

Accro dès ses jeunes années.
Hooked at a young age.

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