“I find in immigrant families, women are the storytellers. They are the ones that pass traditions and memories onto their children,” explains the artist. “That is why, in my paintings, the female character is projected forward like a heroine inhabited by her cultural nature.”
As she breaks through Montreal’s art scene, the Iranian painter tells us how her Persian roots inform her colourful pieces and how the people around her lift her up. Growing up in Iran and then moving to Paris for University at the age of 18, Marjane has always been inspired by the rich artistry around her. However, she did not begin her artistic journey until relatively recently. She moved to Montreal 20 years ago and has been working in finance since, but she adds that “doodling has always been a form of concentration and relaxation for me.” The artist explains how her notebook never left her side, and her artistic style was organically discovered as she sketched and doodled whatever crossed her mind.“I always painted for me,” Marjane smiled.“I always say I am an emerging artist because I don’t have a solid background in art.” What she lacks in formal training she makes up for in passion.
Although art had always been a meditative ritual for Marjane, it was not until she added colour to her sketches that she felt the need to paint on canvas. “Once I finish one painting, I already have the next one in mind.” It is as if she is telling a story, the paintings fall into place one after the other effortlessly. Marjane adds that she would not have pursued her hobby more seriously if it was not for her family and friends’ wholehearted support. “The encouragement kept me going.”
Every few years, Marjane travels back to Iran. There, she enjoys the lights of Persian rugs, ceramics, and rich culture of the country. She explained that Persian rugs are the gardens you can bring into your home while your summer garden hides under the blanket of winter snow. “I read so many books on Persian art,” she says, as she details her inspiration. “I will even begin a painting after I read a poem that inspires me.” Marjane does not force her work to come to her. Instead, her process’s fluidity translates to the comfortable feeling conveyed on her canvas.
Marjane Saidi painted Garden and Life, a calm duality that consoles memories one does not even know they had—her paintings relieve the distraction of every-day life and remind us of the simple beauty of the natural world.
In 1979 when the Iranian revolution occurred, Marjane was a teenager: She recalls the time of tumultuous politics as an especially difficult time for young women who grew up knowing the freedom of individuality and expression. After the revolution, girls and women were obligated to wear headscarves. “No one could see my hair; it became something I wanted to liberate myself from,” she insists. “Before the revolution, we could present ourselves how we wanted to look, but after the revolution, we had the scarves. Perhaps that is why hair is very present in my paintings. I want the hair to be in the wind. I want to let it go.”
“I miss the time when Iranian women used to show their long sweeping black hair.” The hair in her work is an ode to freedom. “I want people to look at my art and feel the love of tradition and love of origin,” Marjane said. The women in her art symbolize strength and persistence. Marjane hopes to convey an experience that women can connect to.
Marjane tentatively describes her art as traditional, modern folk art, as she combines symbols with traditional meaning juxtaposed with a figure of a progressive woman. Her skepticism ends when she details how paintings are simply a vehicle of sharing her memories. “I include symbols in my art that are very personal,” she explains. “I want people to look at my art and feel nostalgic.”
Marjane paints with care and delicacy, and the viewer is invited to transcend into an artistic meditation with her. She includes doves, horses, goldfish, which symbolize peace, strength, and freedom.
Marjane's soothing paintings have been on display at a handful of expos around Montreal, including a pop-up at AntiCafe in October 2019 and at Uncovered Art Montreal in February 2020, but she tells me that exhibiting her work will be much more common post-pandemic. She is hopeful that her art will transform alongside her, and that it will continue to grow as she does. Recently, Marjane printed some of her favourite paintings on scarves for wearable artworks. The scarves were well received, and she plans to expand her supply to be more affordable for people who want to support her. “The memories that we have are the souvenirs of who we are right now,” the artist explains.