Touted as one of Berlin’s next generation of female artists, 20-year-old oil painter Atusa Jafari is making quite the impression. Her hazy nude canvases celebrate femininity in all forms – so what else inspires Jafari, and how is she using intuition to shake up the art world?
Missoma: Why do you think creativity is so important?
Atusa Jafari: In our world there is so much stuff happening all the time, and it’s easy to get lost in it all. As soon as I start to paint, I find I can get away from everything – I can go into myself and find myself. The moment I start painting I see who I am.
M: What inspires your work?
AJ: My inspiration is always changing. At the moment it’s an artist’s little daughter that I look after who’s ten years old. We are together 24/7. The way she views things and how she expresses herself is so raw – she doesn’t need to say much to communicate what she wants, what she needs, and how she feels.
I think women are the most beautiful creatures and often underrated – I feel underrated too sometimes by our industry – but they’re so strong and have such a strong intuition. That female intuition is something both women have and men can really learn from. Intuition is the only thing I trust in – I always think what is the right thing to do? Does it feel right to do that? Following your intuition is being in touch with yourself and what you want – that’s why it’s important to me.
M: When you say you’re inspired by female characteristics, how do you translate that to canvas and paint?
AJ: My process is fluid. In the past I always had the figures melting into each other, always together. But currently I’m inspired by animals and how they use their intuition. It’s primal – they listen to themselves, listen to their bodies, sense the air, and sense nature.
I believe that intuition is something we have lost in a way, because of our phones and apps that tell us everything – like how the weather is going to be, etc. That’s why I think there are things we can relearn from animals, like our feelings and our relationship to nature.
M: Do you collaborate with other artists or disciplines?
AJ: Seeing a variety of bodies – real bodies – inspires me. I’m always watching and learning how the muscles and body parts work. Before coronavirus, I was swimming a lot and I would also sketch the people there to learn about the body. I don’t have one perfect body in my work, that’s not what interests me at all. The only thing that matters is what’s real.
M: What music do you listen to when working?
AJ: I have one artist friend that also collects vinyl and has a lot of records with great covers in the studio. The covers are one of the most inspirational things I have seen – most of them are from the 80s, and you can really see how people are copying them now.
My favourite at the moment is Jimi Hendrix’s ‘If 6 was 9.’ The cover is perfect, and he’s so woke – he’s one of my biggest inspirations. You really have to read his lyrics to see how connected he is to himself. “If all the hippies cut off all their hair. I don’t care, I don’t care. Dig, cause I got my own world to live through, And uh, and I ain’t going to copy you.” I love that.
M: Why is tackling the underrepresentation of women in art important to you?
AJ: We need to change it by doing something about it. Every day I’m painting, planning and doing exhibitions – that’s my way of doing something about it. I’m sick of everyone just saying that only 2% of artists are women – we need to work to change it.
M: As a relatively new Berliner, does the city and people living there impact your work?
AJ: There’s so much energy, which has given me the strength and permission to keep doing what I’m doing. You always need confidence to do your work – somedays you have it, and some days not, but I’m getting there step by step.
M: You were recently called one of Berlin's next generation of female artists – what's next for you?
AJ: It's important to me to continue the doing and learning, and being open to always trying new things. Don’t be scared of the new.
M: What would you say to someone looking to explore their creative side, who might not know where to start?
AJ: Sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming to start when you don’t know where to begin. But I would say start with something small, like sketching, and then you can always build on it from there.