Interview with Farren

Farnoosh Doroodgar, known artistically as Farren, is a digital artist from Tehran, Iran, born in 1989. Despite earning her master’s degree in economics, Farnoosh’s true passion has always been rooted in the arts, a journey she embarked on earnestly.

Best recognized for her contributions to “The Atlas of Beauty” project since 2017, Farnoosh has distinguished herself through her evocative digital portraits, a medium she adopted as a transformative canvas for her creativity.

Her work is deeply influenced by her Middle Eastern heritage, particularly her experiences as a woman in Iran. Through her art, she advocates for women’s rights, channeling her subjects’ unspoken emotions and internal struggles, reflecting a reality often unacknowledged.

ZH: Farnoosh, your journey from economics to becoming a vanguard in digital art is fascinating. Could you describe the moment or series of events that catalyzed this shift towards art, specifically digital art?

First, Thank your fantastic team for the invitation, and I’m thrilled to share my story with your readers.
Well, I’ve always been fascinated by Art in any medium. But I guess my pivot point in my career and changing my field from economics to Arts happened when I was 25 years old. I remember vividly when I realized Art could be an answer to my journey and have a voice in it. Back then, I thought I had succeeded in having a money-making job and commission work, but that wasn’t enough. I knew from the beginning that I had my voice and should pay more attention to the creativity aspect of my job to have a fulfilled artistic career.
So, I took digital art courses in 2019, and it was an eye-opening experience that shifted my perspective of what was called Art to the new form of expressing human feelings and concerns.

ZH: Your work melds Iranian miniature painting elements with the European Renaissance’s boasting and the fantastical edge of cyberpunk iconography. What draws you to combine these particular styles and epochs, and how do you believe this fusion helps convey your narrative?

It is interesting to know that Manichaeism and Iranian art have been intertwined since long ago, as many times in the poems of great poets such as Nezami and Molana. Earlier, Imam Muhammad Ghazali, the story of Mani the prophet, was written by Roman and Chinese painters, and this connection between Persian art and the East and West has shown the influence of Iranian art and wisdom.
The Silk Road should be considered not only as a place of economic trading but also as a place for the supply of knowledge and art to the lands of the Far East and Near East.
In my mind, the greatness of a character like Mani and “Mani’s bewitchment” (Mani Faribi” in presenting perfect work has always led me to make flawless inputs from the point of view of symbolism and expressing concepts and paying attention to details, and my interest in using Persian cultural elements and Their combination with Renaissance art accurately narrates my identity as an artist in the same way as I said earlier.

ZH: Portraiture, particularly self-portraiture, features prominently in your art. What role does this form of introspection play in your creative expression? How does portraying your likeness allow you to explore and communicate broader themes, especially concerning women’s experiences and rights in contemporary Iran?

It may seem strange, but the source of my ideas for my recent series are my personal experiences that I faced as a woman in a patriarchal environment. Narrating a personal story provided me with an opportunity to refer to the cultural and historical roots of the most influential women, and with their presence in my thoughts and beliefs along my journey”, it will open a new window of awareness so that I can be the voice of women. Who has had an impressive and epic life, and this recovery of the identity of a glorious Iranian woman has always been and will continue to be intertwined with my work.

ZH: Light and eyes are recurring motifs in your work, often imbued with poignant emphasis. Could you delve into the philosophy behind your focus on the eyes in your portraits? What are you hoping the viewer discerns from this illumination?

I’ve always said, and I believe, “The eyes are the window to the truth, and the light is the truth. Remember, aware eyes will never hide the truth”.

ZH: Your art is noted for its Hellenistic influences, Quattrocento style resemblances, and even elements akin to Phoenician art. How do you navigate the integration of such diverse art historical periods and styles in a digital format, and to what end?

The periods that you mentioned well were all the results of the integration of cultures and peoples that were once formed in the territory of Iran. Their differences and commonalities and finding this existence in my identity are so evident that it is as if I have lived in all these times.
Digital art per se is a new tool and medium to express human emotions and concerns, which sometimes carries a universal concept and sometimes is limited to a specific culture.

ZH: In your opinion, how does digital art serve as a unique medium for “expressing art on a deeper level,” as you’ve mentioned? 

As I said before, the innovation that digital art has given us by creative and innovative people allows us to connect with previous and classic art in a way to implement and republish our ideas in the shortest possible time and in the most creative form possible.
In a world where technology is considered an essential part of our daily lives, digital art is coined and built from the modern need for a new way of narration.

ZH: Given your advocacy for women’s rights and the thematic prominence of the female experience, how do you see your art evolving in response to the socio-political changes within Iran and the broader Middle East? Are there upcoming projects where you plan to address these issues more directly?

My story behind everything that I made as a Middle Eastern woman, unfortunately, does not only belong to me! This is the narrative of millions of women under the domination of oppressive and misogynistic thinking that has been and will continue for so long.
What we bring to the public as “protest art” is our weapon, to tell the truth that needs to be heard.
My biggest wish is to form a society including capable women and girls who will take significant steps in building for their country and be history makers.
A society will have a growing and dynamic movement when its women are awake and aware.

ZH: Finally, looking at your career trajectory and contributions to projects like “The Atlas of Beauty,” how do you perceive the evolution of your artistic identity and philosophy over the years? Where do you envision your art taking you, and what conversations do you hope it will ignite globally in the future?

I remember very well what Mihayla, the owner and creator of “The Atlas of Beauty” project, said to me when she was trying to take a picture of me:” Farnoosh, you are genuinely like Mona Lisa, a mighty queen. Believe in yourself”. She told me these words when I was lost and had no self-confidence.
This woman’s presence in my life was a practical first step toward my Self-belief and the person you see now. So, Self-belief will be the most critical issue in everyone’s life in all its aspects.
Next, many women have been my companions and helpers in my artistic journey, and I sincerely thank them and appreciate their guidance throughout my creative journey.
The last and essential point is that what is necessary next to your passion for achieving any dream is allowing yourself to practice more and read more, expanding your vision and opportunities that you did not even think about.

In collaboration with ZH media

Interview by Ali Shahrokhi