‘Painting is Like Breathing for Me’: Raoof Haghighi’s Iranian Art Comes to London

Creating art is far more than catharsis; it can be a means of expressing deep-set emotional turmoil or reacting to

Raoof Haghighi

Creating art is far more than catharsis; it can be a means of expressing deep-set emotional turmoil or reacting to trauma or adversity. Raoof Haghighi is an Iranian artist that captures a wide spectrum of human emotion through his works as they coincide with Iranian women’s rights, cultural norms and other evoking tropes.


Raoof Haghighi Creates Iranian Art with Soul

“Painting is Like Breathing for Me” is the latest series of portraits and installations showing in A Gallery in Knightbridge, London from April 6-15. Sticking to oil and pencil for materials, the collection consists of several notable works:

  • “Kristina” is a thoughtful portrait of a girl with rich skin and red lips and downcast eyes;
  • “When the Guns go Silent” shows a woman gazing out under a wall peppered with bullet holes;
  • “The Girl in the Cemetery,” depicting a thin figure wearing a scarf as a hood and donning a pink cardigan, standing in lush green foliage. The depiction was shown at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and, according to a recent press release, the piece is “dedicated to all the brave women in Iran fighting for their freedom”; 
  • The stark imagery of “Silent Eruption,” a pencil drawing done on paper, showing plumes of smoke billowing from a girl’s head against a mountainous backdrop.

Resonation from Raoof Haghighi’s Works

Many of this Iranian-British artist’s pieces are created with oil on canvas, producing rich, deep color schemes and finely-incorporated detail.

Casual art consumers may remember “Just Take Them and Leave Me Alone” from 2022, where a woman stands with key body parts missing with a volcano erupting in the distance. The creation received a massive reaction on social media — even making it to Reddit’s front page — where women gathered for an outcry of agreement to the message of the piece.

Haghighi’s works naturally stir powerful feelings. According to a recent press release, “Raoof’s uncompromising attention to expressing his truth and its often cathartic effect on others, is testament to what we miss when the right to speech is taken away. Through Haghighi’s dedication to confronting the constraints and hostility of present reality, he hopes awareness will spread from his paintings, and perhaps some more of us may be able to breathe.”

More Impactful Iranian Artists

The scope of Iranian art is rooted in a series of climates dealing with the political, cultural and historical concepts, across a wide variety of mediums. Many pieces are laced with components of current conversations in media and social events. 

Haghighi himself capitalized on the Instagram ban implemented by the Iranian government in September 2022 by releasing his “Girl in the Cemetery” portrait, keeping in line with his liberating practice of creating radical art that challenges his culture’s oppressive nature and ideas of speech freedoms.

Shirin Neshat has taken her influence to Hollywood, where her film and television work are placed among top names like Natalie Portman, who starred in her Dreamers trilogy. Women of Allah captures the chilling stares of women under veils, many with ink-covered faces and holding firearms, to sound the signal of oppression in a rare fashion.

Known as “The Pop Artist” for decades, Farhad Moshiri is a long-standing member of the artistic community. His blend of contemporary choices with his original motif of Persian calligraphy on clay pots makes him a distinguishing figure. 
Mixing elements of the human figure with landscapes and photography makes Parastou Forouhar an indicative piece in the community of Iranian artists. This Tehran-born artist is vocal in her opposition of the Iranian government, through her parents’ involvement as activists and politicians. Their untimely deaths in 1998 strengthened her voice, leading her to create works that depicted injustice and suffering, and educated viewers on the events that inspired their creations.