The Safarani sisters are unique artist members at the Co|So gallery. Believing that two minds work better than one, twin sisters Farzaneh and Bahareh Safarani work together in collaboration to create their striking paintings and video art. The two sisters make dramatic compositions of themselves as the subjects to explore their sense of self in relation to the other.
Asleep, oil color on wood panel
The sisters began working professionally at the age of thirteen, and trained under artist Farimah Farhatnia in Iran, where they grew up. After attending the University of Tehran, the sisters attended Northeastern University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts to complete their MFA in Studio Art in 2016. Throughout their education they have studied painting, performance, video, installation, conceptual art, and poetry.
While their style is reminiscent of Renaissance painters, the sisters also use contemporary approaches by combining paintings with video projection. In recent works, their paintings feature projections of slowly moving figures. As these figures appear, disappear, and move about, the paintings become a subtle yet invigorating illusion. By including such visual effects, the sisters add greater depth and mystery to their subject and narrative, thus encouraging viewers to contemplate their own understanding of movement and time.
Untitled shows one sister with a projected, shadowy twin figure
The Safarani sisters also choose to incorporate particular themes and symbols in their work. A major theme that the sisters address is one of identity—as twins, as individuals, and as Iranian women. Without identifying which sister is the subject in each painting, the artists paint the simultaneous struggle and celebration of exploring one’s identity apart from and alongside a twin. On this theme, the sisters say, “we are defining this reality about ourselves differently…as if we are one soul in two bodies…as a reflection of each other, or just one person with an imagination of having a sister or a daydream.”
Furthermore, the sisters often paint themselves in black cloth. This represents the sorrow of not knowing one’s self, as well as the empowering feeling of deciding to wear a burqa by choice. However, the women are often painted in private scenes, with the black cloth acting as their protection from the outside world—a protection that is compromised by the viewer.
Alone, oil color on wood
The Safarani sisters typically depict interior scenes that serve as a safe haven for the women, with the walls and empty spaces acting as a barrier between themselves and the outside world. Common features found in these rooms are mirrors and windows with curtains. The mirrors symbolize how the subjects self-reflect and envision themselves in other worlds or realities, while the half-drawn curtains represent how the women hesitate to make full contact with the outside world. However, any breeze or light that comes through the windows represent the hope that the real world is free, peaceful, and safe, like their walls.
Presence (room), oil color on wood
With their combination of videos and paintings, and themes of identity and beauty, the Safarani sisters explain that through their art, “we are creating a beautiful moment which remains in the mind of the viewer…this moment is temporary—it comes and goes, just as our lives in this world.”
The Safarani sisters were accepted into the new artist member cohort of January 2017.