A face for all reasons

The Iranian artist Afarin Sajedi has garnered renown for her striking, intriguing and inspired portraits of women. Here, the director and owner of Dorothy Circus Gallery, Alexandra Mazzanti, who has curated four of Sajedi’s solo exhibitions in Italy, shares her thoughts on what sets this artist apart from her contemporaries and why her paintings resonate so deeply with audiences.

Afarin Sajedi & Alexandra Mazzanti

Women are central to Afarin’s narrative, appearing in diverse settings and eyecatching in appearance. How does she choose the clothes and accessories that feature in these portraits and what part do they play in the broader messages she is looking to relay? 

Sajedi’s selection of clothes and accessories for her subjects is deliberate and thoughtful, serving as integral elements of her narrative. These choices contribute to the individuality of each portrait while adhering to a thematic consistency. The attire and accessories often symbolize deeper societal and emotional themes, such as the complexity of the female identity and the inner strength of women. These subjects often have some (but not all) common characteristics, from a similar ambiguous expression to crimson lips and flushed cheeks. 

Bon Appétit Duncan, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 120 cm, courtesy of DCG and the artist

What can viewers interpret from these shared elements and the others (hairstyles, accessories and external motifs, for example) that set each portrait apart? 

The recurring motifs, like ambiguous expressions, crimson lips and flushed cheeks, create a signature aesthetic that invites viewers to delve into the emotional and psychological landscapes of the subjects. The individuality of each portrait, emphasized through unique hairstyles, accessories and motifs, allows for a nuanced exploration of identity, portraying a spectrum of emotions and states of being. 

What can you tell us about how she chooses the additional elements that feature in your portraits (notably fish and cutlery) and the symbolic contribution they make? 

The incorporation of her recurring motifs in her compositions is far from whimsical; these elements are imbued with profound symbolism, significantly enhancing the narrative layers of her creations. The motif of fish, for instance, may symbolize liberation or the fluidity of emotions and sentiments, intricately intertwining with the multifaceted intricacies and paradoxes of the human condition. This interplay suggests a nuanced relationship between superficial appearances and the profound depths beneath, hinting at the complex interplay between the overt and the covert aspects of existence. 

Bon Appetit, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 90 cm, courtesy of DCG and the artist (2)

What reactions have you gauged from visitors to Afarin’s exhibitions and collectors of her work? 

Visitors and collectors of Sajedi’s artworks are invariably captivated by the profound emotive force and conceptual intricacy of her portraits. Her adept portrayal of complex emotions and societal motifs not only resonates profoundly but also invokes introspection and deep admiration. However, it is the opulence of her imagination that most profoundly impacts her audience. In each new series, Sajedi embarks on an exploration of novel themes and motifs. Beyond her recurring symbolism and signature elements, she consistently integrates profound research, unveils unique colour palettes, and draws upon an inexhaustibly fresh wellspring of inspiration. Each painting stands as a testament to her remarkable ability to distil the quintessence of contemporary society, weaving together an intricate tapestry of references from cinema, literature and fashion. As a result, she perpetually transcends the ordinary, perpetually setting her sights on visionary horizons. Nonetheless, Sajedi’s art does not cater to every palate. Her creations do not conform to conventional notions of beauty; instead, her technique exudes a sense of spontaneity, aiming for a directness and immediacy that is palpably felt. Thus, those who seek mere aesthetic pleasure might find her work challenging. It is the individuals yearning for profound, introspective journeys who are most captivated by her art. Her works are a clarion call to the connoisseurs who appreciate art not just as a visual feast, but as a medium for deeper exploration and growth, a mirror to the complexities of the human condition. 

Tsunami, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 64 cm, courtesy of DCG and the artist

What do you think sets her work apart from that of her contemporaries and makes it a talking point on today’s contemporary art scene?? 

Sajedi’s work stands out due the artist’s visionary perspective, as well as its unique blend of cultural opulence, profound emotional resonance and a visually arresting boldness. Her adeptness in interlacing her portraits with uncharted interpretations of contemporary sentiments firmly establishes her uniqueness, setting her work distinctly apart from that of her contemporaries. 

Sajedi often explores themes related to identity, emotion and the woman experience. Her work is marked by a profound exploration of the female psyche and societal roles. Her work is powerful due to its emotive depth, cultural resonance and visual uniqueness. She addresses universal womanhood through a highly personal imagination and culturally rich lens, all by being steered by the female gaze, which makes her work extremely significant on the contemporary art scene.

Do you have a favourite theme or topic that she explores in her artworks? 

No I don’t, I actually await for every new piece to take me on a distinct and unexpected journey, surprising my imagination or simply putting into form an always new level of understanding of the self. Her work consistently offers fresh perspectives, making it a unique adventure each time. 

You Look Ready, acrylic on canvas,195 × 130 cm, courtesy of DCG and the artist

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