Maryam Najd (°1965, Teheran, Iran) was educated in Teheran and Antwerp, two cultural and artistic extremes. She learned the techniques of miniature painting and continued her studies at the university of fine arts of Teheran. In 1992 she moved to Antwerp where she studied first at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and then at the HISK. Her work is characterized by a dialectical approach in both form and content. Through the years she has been developing a highly individual painterly vocabulary that establishes a critical yet respectful dialogue between the two worlds that formed her. To do so, she merges her own experience with the representation of “reality” in the media, unravelling the anecdotal power of the image by confronting it with the idea of painting as an epitome of the freedom of thought. Najd does not judge, she observes and captures with the eye of a painter. The paintings in which Najd transforms her topics, are subtle, erotic, intellectual and atmospheric – but at the same time confrontational, harsh and humorous.
She combines figurative pieces with abstract, monochrome paintings and through the years her work became more layered and more complex. The style and concept of her work is a developing study on the equilibrium or (un)balance that finds its origins in her own double reality: Eastern roots, Western environment. From 2005 on she started creating a series of paintings that, although their subjects differed, share one unmistakable signature: the specific painting style of Maryam Najd. Some of those series are long-term projects, evolving during the years. Like the ‘Self-Portraits’, a series that she started in 2005 and still continues. Najd portrays both people from her entourage and characters that became icons in the media, like Margaret Tatcher, Farah Diba or Osama Bin Laden. In every portrait she injects a bit of herself. In selecting known and unknown personalities she looks for a particular link between them and herself, making it a sort of self-reflection. The ‘Phantasmagoria’ (2005-2006) paintings are based on photographed images of music clips that she transformed with the typical Najd treatment where the figurative and the abstract interweave. The series ‘Bloody Blanket’ (2009) addresses the Western mediatisation of violence in the Middle East. In that same year the Iranian green movement inspired her for yet another series that introduced a new element in her paintings: the mask. By painting Western and Eastern images of camouflage in ‘Masquerade’ she reveals again the differences people live in both parts of the world: covering up to party at the carnival or covering up in order not to be recognized in an oppressive regime.
In 2010 she started working at the Non-Existence Flag Project, an extensive installation of paintings reflecting the national symbols of the 193 countries of the UN: a series of monochrome paintings mixing the colours of each flag into a new colour, a ‘reproduction’ of Jan Breughel’s Grand Bouquet with the national flowers of each country and an installation of silk printed motto cards, with the national slogans. In 2014 she presented her newest project ‘Accuracy and Balance – West’ (2013-2014) in which she questions the representation of the (naked) woman in the Western world.