Persian or Iranian art is celebrated as one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many traditional disciplines including architecture, painting, literature, music, weaving, and stonemasonry. For Illustrator Mariam Tafsiri, it is also part of her identity and cultural upbringing.
Based in London and raised by her Iranian family, Tafsiri is no stranger to traditional Persian art forms. In particular, she draws inspiration from Qajar art (art forms of the Qajar dynasty of the late Persian Empire, which lasted from 1781 to 1925), Persian miniature paintings, and Islamic designs.
Most notably, Qajar art is recognizable for its distinctive style of portraiture. An interesting feature in such portraits is that they ten to blur the gender of the painted subjects, displaying similarities in body and facial features between men and women. As such, these paintings present a different beauty ideal, which Tafsiri admits to being drawn to.
“My interest in Qajar art developed at an early age, taking inspiration from the unibrowed women who present a very different concept of beauty to that regularly portrayed in the West,” she remarked once in an interview with Girlsclub Asia.
A full-time economist by day, Tafsiri experiments with different styles of painting during her time off. “I’ve really been focusing on experimenting with styles and techniques over the past year so I’d love to finally find ‘my style’”, she explained. “Once that settles down I’ll be able to focus more on the attention and detail that goes into my work.”
“My drawings had always been realistic portraits which would take me hours to do but moving towards illustration has allowed me to draw more often and more quickly in a variety of styles,” she added. “I work full time in another job so I just love being able to have something to channel my creativity.”
With an emphasis on Persian women, situated against minimalistic settings, Tafsiri’s portraits add a contemporary twist to this all but forgotten art form. Follow her on Instagram for more: