Persian artist says London exhibit dedicated to ‘all the brave women’ in Iran

An Iranian artist whose drawing of a woman without breasts and a groin went viral is to dedicate his upcoming London exhibit to “all the brave women” fighting for their rights in his country of birth, including murdered Mahsa Amini.

Forty-six-year-old Raoof Haghighi, who has lived in the UK since 2009, is to showcase some of his “favourite surreal and hyperrealistic portraits and drawings” in mid-April as part of solo exhibit Painting is Like Breathing for Me.

Man wearing glasses and looking into the distance
Portrait of my father (Raoof Haghighi)

Mr Haghighi, who lives in Reading and was raised in a family of eight artists under authoritarian regime in Shiraz, Iran, told the PA news agency: “Being born in an artistic family was really helpful for my own journey into, and relationship with, art.

“Obviously I learned so many things from my father and my siblings. It proved to be very useful to have talented and artistic people to provide constructive criticism of my work.

“This proved to be invaluable as I started my own art journey.”

He said that the biggest aim for his exhibit is to “inspire people and hope they can enjoy seeing my creative process”, as well as shining a light on the severely restricted rights women in Iran have.

“I want to dedicate some of the drawings to all the brave women in Iran who are currently fighting for their freedom, and hopefully one day in the near future people can live freely”, Mr Haghighi added.

One of the exhibit’s standout drawings, called Just Take Them and Leave Me Alone, touched many social media users, garnering more than 36,000 likes on Instagram, and over 2.6 thousand comments on Reddit, as well as being shared 40,000 times on Facebook in 2021.

Drawing of woman standing, with her breasts and groin detached from her body and lying on the floor
Just Take them and leave me alone (Raoof Haghighi)

It depicts a woman standing, with her breasts and groin detached from her body and lying on the ground.

“I never thought it will touch so many people around the world”, Mr Haghighi said about the drawing which took roughly five hours to create.

“So when I checked my social media accounts following the release of this drawing, I was very shocked to discover that it had been shared millions of times.”

Some of the comments included “this is haunting” and “being reduced on your superficial sexual characteristics is sad, you are more than just appearance of skin, muscles and forms of your body”.

Mr Haghighi added that he wanted people to interpret the piece – as well as his other work – in their own personal way.

He said: “Many women related to this particular piece because of what they themselves have gone through life, and this can vary from experiences of gender-based violence to even going through cancer.

“In general I like to people have their own interpretation about art.

“What I like about art is that it can affect each person differently because of their own background and life experience. The same piece of art can yield a completely different experience, for instance something positive can be negatively construed by some and vice versa.”

Other work in the exhibit include a series called Adam and Eve, which tries to “expose the hypocrisy of forced veils” by depicting different images of women, with one wearing a veil and covered up and others naked and with their hair flowing.

Woman covered with just her eyes showing and a man standing next to her naked
Adam and Eve (Raoof Haghighi)

Another drawing, called Women life freedom, is dedicated to 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was killed last September for allegedly violating Iran’s Islamic dress code, which requires women to wear a hijab.

It shows a woman’s loose hair turning into wings.

Woman flying with hair turning into wings
Women life freedom (Raoof Haghighi)

Countless protests over issues affecting women and girls – such as domestic violence, abortion and strict Islamic dress code laws – have taken place following the incident.

Mr Haghighi hopes to “surprise and shock” viewers with his collection.

Large woman standing and looking ahead, without any clothes on
Outcast (Raoof Haghighi)

“I am so delighted that I have the opportunity to showcase a selection of my favourite surreal and hyper-realistic portraits and drawings in my upcoming London solo art exhibition”, he said.

“I really enjoy creating an element of shock or surprise to the viewer, and sometimes I even surprise myself when I see the final product.”

The exhibit takes places from April 7 to April 16 from 10am to 9pm, presented by A Gallery at 2 Motcomb Street, London, SW1X 8JU.

More information about Mr Haghighi can be found here: