“I love realism……I take pictures of my models and then perform on canvas”
With collections based on nostalgia and social concerns, Sahar Najafi’s paintings are inspired by her own, spiritual need. But despite Iran’s unconventional attitude towards female artists, Sahar is able to communicate with her audience and convey her message through her art.
Please introduce yourself to our readers:
I am Sahar Najafi. I was born in 1986 in Shiraz, Iran. I have been interested in art since childhood and started my professional work at 18 when I moved to Tehran to study in the field of painting at university. I have held many solo and group exhibitions in Iran and participated in many national and international competitions such as Fajr and Faber-Castell.
Tell us about your education:
I have Bachelor’s degree in painting and a Master’s degree in art history both from Shahed University Tehran, Iran (I was top student in both).
Can you tell us a little about your early years and what influenced you to become a painter?
6 years ago, after completion of my university studies, I moved back to Shiraz and started teaching art in universities and private institutes. In the meantime, I continued my personal activities too. Based on orders in the field of publishing and advertising I also have some illustration activities these days.
In addition to other activities, I am working on a new painting collection and hope to finish this within three months.
About what makes me a painter, during the last years of my study I doubted I would continue as painter and spent most of my time on illustrations. However, I believe there is no clear line between illustration and painting – even my illustrations are a kind of painting – and I turned to painting again.
How would you describe your art?
I have a kind of feminine attitude in my works. The content of works is based on my social attitude. The main structure of my two recent collections is women. My first collection is about a woman’s nostalgia and her childhood, and in the recent collection I tried to work on social concerns and the contradiction between tradition and social attitudes towards women.
How would you describe the art scene in Iran?
Well, I have to say that the art situation in Iran has seen substantial growth during recent years, especially in traditional art, cinema, music, fashion design and graphics; but in painting it hasn’t made noticeable progress. There is no substantial request in the governmental sector and professional artists often work with Iranian or foreigner art dealers.
As a female artist in Iran, what are some of the difficulties that you face?
In recent years better conditions are provided for female artists and it can be said that there is less gender difference in comparison to the past. Women have found a suitable position in art events.
The main problem still remains unconventional attitudes toward women.
Can you explain your technique?
I often use oil colours and sometimes mix media in my paintings.
What are your materials of choice for your work?
I love realism and in most of my works after finalizing sketches I take pictures of my models and then perform on canvas.
How do you choose your subject(s)?
Usually I select my subjects from the social matters around me in society and try to show my concerns in my works.
Where does the magic all happen? Describe your studio.
Usually it happens in my studio but sometimes even when I am in bed a clue sparks in my mind and I quickly write it down in a booklet and think about it in my studio later.
My studio is a room in my apartment, a lovely corner where I spend most of my sweet time alone, but sometime my little boy also paints with me. My studio is like a cocoon and I am born by creating an artwork like a butterfly; a white canvas is a window to me and I can start flying through this window.
What does your art say about the world?
As mentioned before I talk about woman. What you can find in my works is common between women and most of them agree with my point of view.
What inspires you and your work?
Creating artwork is a spiritual need for an artist. When I don’t work for a couple of days I feel depressed and confused. Moreover, when a collection comes to end, communicating with an audience and selling an artwork gives me an additional incentive.
What have been some of your most important influences that shaped how you paint today?
Part of it relates to my being a woman and my understandings about my gender. The other part is related to society and events around me. Unfortunately there are some contradictions in religion and social rules and my works try to convey this message.
How do you promote your art and where do you sell it?
Usually I exhibit my works in private galleries and art dealers buy my artworks.
What do you hope to accomplish with your art?
An artist’s outcome can be categorized in two categories. The first one is the spiritual aspect that is self-satisfaction and the second one is fame and generating revenue.
Tell us about your other hobbies.
Art is obviously me main hobby but I like movies, music and also sports. However, I spend most of my time playing with my little boy and painting in child worlds.
What type of music do you listen to?
My favourite music is Iranian traditional music and also the new generation which is a mix of traditional music with western instruments.
What are some of your future plans?
I have sketched up two new collections and I have decided to finish and exhibit these collections next year. However, to improve my training program I would like to establish an institute.
Your message for us at CP magazine:
I wish success and happiness for you and your readers and I wish I could exhibit my works to your readers too.