In the studio with Zahra Shahcheraghi, a contemporary visual artist whose abstracted works explore themes of figuration and the human body. We met with Zahra to tell us more about growing up in the the suburbs of Iran, her greatest influences, and Zahra's motivations in the arts.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I am Iranian, originally from Shiraz. I was lucky being born into a family that was always a motivator of the arts. My parents never let religious beliefs become an obstacle against my choice.
What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work?
Being the last child gave me an excellent chance to know different aspects of my character. I remember public bathrooms with Safavid architecture and rooms with high and dark ceilings in which white naked faithful women left my questions answerless. Since then, my painting subjects unconsciously were vague images of women in the bathroom . Some of them are memorable images from my past which were not real and made up in my mind. In my point of view today, my works have become more abstract and figurative in form. Since my high school teacher helped me reveal a talent I found in painting, I understood how much I loved it. Since then, I went to drawing classes purposefully and seriously; helping me in the path of the arts.
What are your greatest influences and source of inspiration?
When my paintings were exhibited in my country, they took me as an influencer artist. I think this made me take my steps more seriously in the path of my target. Perhaps my paintings are a cry against suppression caused by the hijab which government dictated to women of my country. Although I was brought up freely, there was a mandatory hijab which I was made to obey. In spite of limitations and bitterness, I chose my country that gave me a sense of identity. I remember an influencer artist, Hossein Cheraghchi , my master who helped me significantly to improve my perspective and reading. William de Kooning’s work also made me courageous to paint freely.
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
It is interesting for me that audience pay more attention to elements and the way I think. In my paintings, regardless of geographical and historical locations, each moment of my life I feel I am in my real free self. I paint with my feelings and I am continually completing and searching for elements of my paintings away from the orientation of external factors. When an artwork is finished for me, I can see the right composition in it by my own definition.