The Power of a Woman: Nine Minutes with Afarin Sajedi

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Dorothy Circus Gallery will be presenting the first UK solo exhibition by the renowned Tehran-based, Iranian artist, Afarin Sajedi.

This solo show inaugurates DCG London’s 2019 exhibition programme: Turning Page. Sajedi’s exhibition, titled, ECCE MULIER, takes inspiration from the psychoanalytic analysis of the feminine depths observed first by Goethe and then by Jung, and acknowledged as the source of the creative power of the unconscious.

Sajedi received classical pictorial training and her expressive path is intertwined with magical symbolism and the most contemporary influences of American Pop Surrealism and Asian Neo-pop. She powerfully and courageously synthesises the thoughts of postmodern women with female emotional patterns that relate to multiple experiences and existential conditions. The result is a rich psychological portrait that explores the inner spiritual nature and coexistence of love and strength in the maternal myth.

In a bold duel of light and shadows, Sajedi explores the dreams, solitudes, battles and goals of the universal woman. The large canvases of the artist convey a message rich in alchemical, religious and literary symbols. She inventively overcomes any temporal or cultural barriers while shedding more light and offering further understanding of the contemporary woman.

Dorothy Circus Gallery’s director Alexandra Mazzanti says of the artist

‘Afarin and I share the same  vision of femininity in the contemporary world. We have very different  experiences in life but our feelings and paths cross on a common ground made of courage and strength. We are both fighters, we are the messengers of a very intimate and real female feeling that needs most of all beauty and Art to be properly understood.’

With this exhibition, Dorothy Circus Gallery emphasises its constant commitment and keen interest in the representation and iconography of women in the art world. The gallery’s 2019 curatorial programme will dedicate particular attention to maternity and the relationship between humanity and the creative process. It is a theme that takes inspiration from the nadir of this last decade and symbolises the closing moment, the last visible light before nightfall, the last moment in which we are conscious, just before turning to a new chapter, a new decade towards new knowledge, understanding, and humanity.

Afarin, how would you describe your work to those who are unfamiliar with it?

I would say that my work represents humanity. Love, suffering, frustration, desire are feelings that unite us and that I try to convey in my paintings. I want to bring to the outside the emotions of the women I portray, to reveal what women do not say or cannot say. They are strong women with chaotic insides, and they speak to everyone, men or women, as feelings characterise us all as human beings.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

When my mom saw the first signs of my talent as a child, she introduced me to the Italian Renaissance movement. She defined the pinnacles of painting for me. She used to show me images of Christian artworks, especially of Mary and her Son, and tell me to study them and imitate them. Since then I never stopped painting. Throughout the years, I had the chance to visit churches and see the works up close. Although I’m not a religious person, churches are some of my favourite places. I can sit in a church for hours and feel surrounded by art more than any museum. Those images still represent to me the highest level of perfection.

What challenges have you faced?

Living and working in Iran, I think I faced the same challenges that any Iranian artist has faced. There is a really strong censorship in general. In fact, I don’t think this relates only to artist but to everyone. For women the situation is even more difficult, not so much for being an artist, but for the limited freedom that we have regarding the subjects of our work. For example, it is difficult to paint the face of women, as figurative art is generally frowned upon, but this exactly what I often depict in my art.

What is the ethos of your new exhibition at Dorothy Circus Gallery?

I was inspired for this exhibition by the philosophical and psychoanalytical analysis by Goethe and by the symbol of the Virgin Mary. In particular I would like to communicate the similarities between Holy Mary and contemporary women, with a focus on Mary’s power as a woman, a mother, and especially as a human being and a representation of the universal human condition.

Why did you want to work with this particular gallery?

My first solo show out of Iran took place at Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome in 2013. I was personally invited by Alexandra Mazzanti, to display my art at Palazzo Valentini in Rome. The DCG director and owner of the gallery  discovered my Art online and fell in love with it. Since then my collaboration with Alexandra and the gallery has been very strong. When she told me that she opened a second gallery in London, and that she was planning to exhibit me here as well, I couldn’t say no! The focus that the gallery has for the whole new movements of Figurative Art and Pop Surrealism movement, and the strong curatorial vision always reassures me that I can entrust the vision and contents my art aims to spread .

It was important to you to launch this exhibition on International Women’s Day; why was this so important to you?

I never wanted my work to be labelled as feminist or “defending women’s rights” just because I portray women. My intent has always been that of portraying humanity as a whole, and I never understood why paintings that always refer to the universal human condition have a male figure as the main subject, but almost never a woman. In my opinion there’s a lot more humanity in women. But in this exhibition, I’m depicting a human power that exists only in women, and I wanted to honoured by launching the show on International Women’s Day. It might be the first time that I can say my series is focused on something exclusively female, and on womanhood.

Why should people come and see this exhibition?

Because the new works on show will be highly representative of my true message and of my way of seeing the world. This time I produced the works for the first time outside of Iran, while being in Paris for a residency, and I had the opportunity not only to work on large canvases, but I also had the artistic freedom to realise paintings that I wished to create a long time ago, while in Iran.

This is going to be my first exhibition in the UK and I really hope that I will have the support of my audience on this special occasion.



Solo Exhibition

8 March – 6 April 2019

Dorothy Circus Gallery

35, Connaught Street, London, W2 2AG

IMAGE: Afarin Sajedi, You Look Ready, 2019