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TEHRAN. (Iranart) - Rafat Sarraf painting works were on display at Golestan Gallery in Tehran.

Rafat Sarraf is truly a phenomenon. The 84-year-old started painting four years ago! She reveals a lot about herself in her works.

While bed stricken, she began painting for fun. But her paintings were still full of zest for life, rich in color, and overflowed with hope. A visit to her exhibition is worth your while. And these are just some of the kind words gallery owner Leila Golestan had to say about Sarraf’s works.

If you want to convey something through your art, it certainly helps if you have accrued a decent amount of personal experience along the way. Rafat discovered her painting talent at the age of 80. At first, it felt more like a therapy to her. Her first exhibition included 36 pieces of paintings that she drew in just two years.

Perhaps, that also shows the essence of the feminine and maternal side. And she has some works she made while she was sick – whatever she could manage. While all that may seem highly morbid, Rafat’s zest for life and the release she experienced through her creative work also come through.

Her daughter Amaneh, a graphic designed herself, explains to Honar Online: “There is a charity house in our neighborhood that takes care of mentally disabled kids. I used to teach them painting. This was also a time that my mother was seriously ill. She didn’t feel well, both physically and psychologically. She had some kind of allergy and had to scratch herself all the time. I bought her some brush and paper so she would stop scratching and start painting.”

She adds: “I always talked to her about the disabled kids I was working with. I would tell their stories and how they had affected my life. I encouraged mom to paint whatever she liked. First she asked me to do some sketches so she could color them. I first refused, but since this was too stressful for her, I did some sketches initially.”

Amaneh goes on: “I had to rush things so she wouldn’t have time scratching herself. Her caretakers complained about her sleeping so late because she was painting all the time. This meant I had to buy her more papers and brushes day in day out.”

Elsewhere in her remarks, Amaneh says: “I kept telling her to do her own paintings and coloring at the same time. She slowly, but steadily, began finding her own drawing style. When she felt well, she would color everything. She would consult me whether to use yellow or green or purple. But that’s all. She began finding her own forms or picking some from mine.”

She concludes by saying, “My mother would ask me how to draw light or shadow on canvas. I was amazed to see her quick progress. I found it hard to believe it was her doing all those beautiful paintings. She did some of the paintings while in hospital. Sadly, these days she has become so fragile, hardly able to do any work at all. She used to do one painting each day. Now she is struggling to finish just one after a month or so.”

Any artist worth his/her creative salt must reveal something of his/her soul and inner emotional machinations. Rafat Sarraf appears to have gone whole hog. For starters, her painting works were on display at Golestan Gallery in Tehran, The exhibition, which wrapped up on Wednesday, went by title “Zest for Life.” That’s quite a statement of intent.


Rafat Sarraf
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