Sara’s paintings often reflects her time passed in Iran, which she first left or fled as a refugee during the Iran-Iraq war, but it also references her time away from her birth country, the sadness and confusion she explains of “belonging nowhere and everywhere” and the questioning of identity, an aspect that left her feeling like, “loosing the idea of having home”. Through the intertwining of Eastern and Western culture and the uncertainty of where she would feel most confortable, her love of Iran and for Iran has not as she tells me wavered. The land draws her back and her paintings though dripping with the tears of war are her way of showing her love.
After completing a degree in philosophy and sociology at UCLA, Sara went back to live in Iran and found herself in the mist of the Green Movement. With riots occurring everyday, she told me she saw some of her friends beaten, and “some were taken”.
It is through this pain and these dark hours that her paintings depict Iran and form part of a light, shining out her storytelling.
“Most of my work is on Iran, but I don’t want my art to be put in a box”
In fact, Sara’s work can be either political or not. She told me that “as a viewer you can see politics but I don’t want to say this is politics, I just want to say, this is humanity”.
“I paint what I see – I don’t want to have a political way, I depict the everyday life”. In her paintings though, the political can be found if as a viewer you wish to see that. It is certainly filled with symbolism and meaning, hints of her ideas run through the corners of her canvases, but her audience is left to interpret their own meaning of her art.
As we exchanged views on art, Sara expressed that “the art in Iran projects the dark side of the city” and that her painting though can project that too, is also about the light of the city, the light of life and moving one’s own life into the light. Through the memory of war and trauma, these emotions have been a catalyst for her work, depicting both light and dark, hope and sadness.
Sara told me of her paintings on the theme of marriage, which she started as she felt young people, kids from the Middle East are sometimes being pushed into it. And, because she thought that, “Iran is like a beautiful bride, that has been raped throughout history”. Referencing too, its beautiful nature that is being destroyed and the growing gap between the lower and upper class with a disappearing middle class. An effect, that could be deemed as a global one.
Sara takes the notion of a bride as a “beautiful ‘outer’ being”, using it as a metaphor for her concerns. She puts her bride in different settings in her paintings. Sometimes, the bride is depicted in a painting as a doll in a room, sometimes she is the main character of a painting, which all leads to the symbolism and mystery of the art. The message is in the art and though of course she does voice some of them as we sit together, but not all, as a viewer you read what you want.
As we sipped our coffees, we talked a lot about nature, humanity, German Expressionism, its way of showcasing or throwing towards us emotion without neatness in its style of art, the elements of war and art, and the healing effects that art possesses, a notion that the artist Joseph Beuys put forward.
Healing through art can be both true for the artist and the viewer, art doesn’t have to be literate, it just has to make you feel something and as Sara mentioned to me on her art, she “can’t show the truth, she finds ways around things”. In her dream like, beautiful whimsical paintings, a soft tone and light hides the darkness that in turn brought that light forth.
As the morning’s sun crept into the clouds, talk of war and identity always found its way back into our conversation, into the art, and then back out again into the hope of humanity. Perhaps this is what life is, a balance between the light and the dark, perhaps art is that too. For Sara her paintings, her art are a way to show those both sides of light and dark, happiness and sadness, without saying a word, without pushing for her interpretation, but slowly suggesting, basking in light and darkness.