Zahra Zeinali

Zahra Zeinali was born in 1975 in Tehran, Iran. From 2001 to 2004, she studied Fine arts at the Art and Architecture University in Tehran. At the same time, she taught visual arts to children during 15 years. Passionate about photography, she trained in photography in 2007 at the House of Photography in Tehran. In 2012, she moved to France. Confronted with her new life, her vision of the world changed. Since 2020, she has resumed training in photography at the EFET School in Paris.


“Over time Zahra Zeinali develops her universe, which evolves slowly according to the unconscious, a vast underground life, stirring, agitated, that a hypersensitive artist such as Zahra does not seek to control. Autobiographical elements emerge through the dreamlike nature of his painting. Naturally gifted for drawing, after nine years spent in France, her work speaks to us with a more distanced tone of her experience as an Iranian immigrant, fleeing the restrictions of her country, in the hope of tasting French freedom.

Innocence prey to a hostile environment, innocence symbolized by dolls with candid eyes, but abused, broken, such is apparently the major theme of his canvases, which, by progressive shifts, moves towards a less dark, more playful, close to Alice in Wonderland, legendary heroine confronted with strangeness and the angel of the bizarre. Zahra follows in her footsteps, in a world in perpetual transformation. Masks, by their very nature, conceal cruel truths, slightly disturbing clowns approach everyday life in roundabout ways, little girls whisper secrets to each other in dark corners. As with Alice, wolves, foxes, exotic birds, all sorts of animals appear, adding a singular note to the enigma of existence.

Passionate about the art of photography, which she studied in Paris, Zahra sometimes takes photos in anticipation of the painting in progress. Hence the skilful disorder of the bold, unusual, very free layouts of his compositions. It is not without deep reasons that the painter feels in affinity with the Portuguese Paula Rego, her bitterness, her own universe of broken dolls, her admirable neo-classical technique which in no way refrains from sneering and sarcasm. Both express their feelings, sometimes painful, sometimes humorous, but served by the beauty of the design and the nobility of the material. »

Xavier BUREAU, november 2022

THE DOLL’S HOUSE of Zahra Zeinali

“What can a true artistic temperament aspire to after a youth spent in Iran today?

To flee the hassles, prejudices, restrictions, to open wide a window of freedom rich in potentialities that were believed for a long time inaccessible. Zahra Zeinali became a visual arts teacher for fifteen years. Her pupils are 6 to 12 years old. Drawing, sculpture, painting, model design, she taught them a great diversity of techniques, but above all to think and design freely by themselves, in an atmosphere of joyful creative disorder which, surprisingly, is tolerated by a careful hierarchy. Then she studied four years at the University of Art and Architecture in Tehran.When she arrived in France, after a brief abstract period inspired by the rhythms of nature, it was at the time of the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks, which marked her deeply, to the point of lastingly darkening the ideal of emancipation and autonomy that she had projected on her stay in Paris. “There is no paradise on earth” she concluded with a melancholy smile. An old doll, bought for 1 euro in a storage room, triggers a click in her. The bitter imprint left by the Iranian confinement, the memory of her fifteen years of teaching visual arts to children, the loneliness of her Parisian exile, all this sentimental nebula found a plastic metaphor in the image of the doll. This is what these delicate earthenware faces evoke, often abused, abandoned, the childish innocence of their ingenuous gazes, a sort of strange absence from the world of the living, as if their attenuated life took place behind the mystery of a theater curtain, in the backcountry behind the scenes, on the fringes, on the borders of society and life.

In each painting, the same little girl returns with a recurring dream, lost in an unfamiliar and hostile environment. The staging of the canvas or the drawing is subject to a learned disorder, slightly theatrical, evoking the happy chances of the bric-a-brac of the second-hand shops.

Her unconditional admiration for Goya probably inspires her taste for chiaroscuro, for a vibrant and eventful material. Painting that touches the human and the sensitive. Memory of life and pictorial passion intertwine inextricably in an almost organic synthesis. She is a real painter.”Xavier Bureau