Nadia Lazizi Painter - Edinburgh, UK

You say you are a figurative artist. Can you explain how you understand this term in context to your work?

For me, to be a figurative artist is to work with the human form in one’s own work. I have always found an affinity in working with the female form in particular, as a means of self expression.
A favourite pastime of mine was sitting cross legged on the floor in life drawing classes and immersing myself in studies of the human anatomy. It brought with it not only the challenge of attaining anatomical correctness of form in a practical manner but also cleared the mind of all distractions and became more of a meditative process.

Recently you have become a selected member of the International Guild of Realism, USA. Explain how this membership is achieved?


I was very pleased that my application to IGOR was accepted. If one wishes to make an application to them it is done through their website. They request that if you happen to know anyone on the admissions board, that you state this clearly along with your application to keep the judging process impartial. If an artist should wish to submit an application for membership to the Guild they will need to supply them with several images of their work at high resolution, a link to their website and other necessary information such as contact and image details. The application itself can take a few weeks to be reviewed by the charter members of the board.

When and why did you decide to specialize in painting women?

It wasn’t a conscious decision as such. It was more of an organic process that evolved from my love of studying the human anatomy at College/University, coupled with an exploration of my mixed cultural heritage and place within society as a young woman.


Can you expand on your use of flamboyant fabric in your work?

I predominantly use silks within my works. The reason is twofold, the first being that it is a real pleasure to paint, the colours are vibrant and I adore the way it interacts with the light that I use in my paintings. The second is because I find it to be a very sensual and feminine fabric.

‘Forget Me Knot’

You also paint just fabric. Can you discuss this work?

Several of my works are solely of silk, yes. This came about because I needed to take some time to reflect on a few matters and I find that painting silk is a very calming, meditative experience.

‘Haven’ and ‘Reticence’ give a more modern insight. Why does clothing have such a dating impact on the viewer?

Although my work is grounded in realism, it is far too stylized to be considered entirely so. I would refer to it as Aesthetic Realism, influenced by not only the classical fine arts of the Renaissance but also contemporary illustrators and digital photographers. With ‘Reticence’ and ‘Haven’ as well as ‘Shelter’ and ‘Timid’, I sought to further enhance the modern, illustrative quality of my work by making the clothing a distinct feature, even though it is very simple and dark. It is further enhanced by the lighter backgrounds which the clothing is very clearly defined against. Clothing is indicative of the times we live in or the times we, as artists, wish to represent. The particular time period in history one is depicting also brings with it a sense of the values and perceptions of the people of that particular age.


A large number of your works have very dark backgrounds. Expand on this use and also on that of light in your work?

I have always used my work as a way of exploring my feelings and place within the word as a young woman, given my mixed cultural heritage. Since my work has a very personal source I have always been concerned about how much visual information to convey to the viewer. The use of negative space and ambiguous backgrounds is intended to focus the greatest attention upon my subject, the solitary female and her emotional experiences.


Mood and atmosphere is carefully constructed through the deliberate juxtaposition of the central figure against an ambiguous background. In turn, the image is further defined by the use of intense artificial lighting and a restricted colour palette. The play of light and shadow conveys an effect that is both welcoming and remote. In brief, it intensifies and ephemeral moment in time which the viewer can interpret in light of their own personal experiences, yet being guided by the ambience and composition of the image as a whole.

Can you discuss how you are able to show such sensual poses without them becoming sexual?

I have always been acutely aware of the fine line between ‘sexual’ and ‘sensual’. I want to portray the draped female figure, whilst still retaining the element of ‘modesty’ which was instilled in me from a young age. This can be a balancing act, and one which mirrors my own personal circumstance.
Many of my works represent a dream world or moments of quiet reflection, contemplation or introspection, where one can delve into the subconscious and attempt to understand one’s own place within the greater scheme of things. I seek to represent and capture a fleeting moment in time, a transient image of contemplation that is a combination of dreams and reality, a tasteful balance between sensuality and femininity, suggesting emotions and feelings frozen in time. They are illusions, drawn from an unreal reality based on the commonly purveyed Western depiction of women in an idealised form.


There is often a feeling of tumbling and falling in your work. Can you explain this?

It comes from the subsequent feelings of being influenced by two very different cultures. My upbringing in what is generally considered to be a democratic and liberal Western country meant that there were inevitable clashes between two polar opposite cultures throughout my life and search for my own identity. Often this led to feelings of isolation, confusion and frustration. I found a means of expression through my artwork, and deep reflection upon my circumstance. This is not something that someone would automatically garner from my work but these feelings are conveyed to the viewer on a very subtle level.

‘Night Flight’

‘The Seeker’ is very different from your other work. Can you explain the inspiration for this work?

‘The Seeker’

The Seeker was a commission, and as such was painted according to the client’s wishes, which on a serendipitous level also related to my own exploration into identity issues and multiculturalism. The model herself is blonde and fair skinned but she wears the traditional Islamic garb and is, albeit hesitantly, setting out on a journey of discovery.

Can you explain the process of your work, from inspiration to completed canvas?

I seek to define a particular emotion and capture it on linen. My work is very controlled and this mirrors my own nature as I have always had to walk a fine line between two very different cultural expectations and perceptions of womanhood. It has led to a very natural and methodical approach to my paintings and I work slowly, allowing each layer dry before the addition of subsequent layers of paint are added. This often means that I am working on several paintings at once. I work with an array of photographs and sketches, attempting to capture the anatomical correctness of form, which is very important to me. (Unfortunately the costs of working with live models make it impractical for me to work with them on a consistent basis throughout the whole process). After I use the photographs/sketches to establish the figure, I begin to stylize the image as a whole. The works poses a contemporary tone which is achieved through the integration of dry brush techniques, glazing and chiaroscuro, combined with an illustrative edge. Because of the way that I work, it often takes several weeks to finish a painting and as such, I am now working with small canvases, which allows me to work through my ideas at a much faster pace.
Once the work has had time to dry, I use a retouching varnish to protect the painting.

In ‘Cascade’, the curl of the body appears to bind in all her secrets. Please discuss this?

Yes, she is also shrouded by her hair that cascades freely over her shoulders. The idea behind this is again twofold. Her hair protects and hides her from the viewer but it also gains her attention for this very reason, as she sits on the floor reflecting upon her thoughts. The symbolic significance of hair in different cultures prompted this as the Islamic perception is that covered hair symbolises modesty whereas the Western woman does not acknowledge a similar constraint. The models hair flowing over her body illustrates that she is both protected and trapped by these opposing views and presumptions of how a woman is perceived within these respective cultures.
From a technical point of view, I have always found loose hair to be a pleasure to paint. I also feel that it enhances a woman’s sensuality, but that is something that I was always encouraged to ‘contain’. All of my work deals with similar issues and cultural contradictions.


You were involved in an exhibition, “Women Painting Women”. Can you discuss this particular exhibition and working with ten other women who paint women?

The Women Painting Women movement began in the USA with Sadie Valeri, Alia El Bermani and Diane Feissel who created an online resource detailing the work of other contemporary women artists working with the female form.
Since its inception in March 2009 the site has grown and featured the works of many female artists practicing today. A desire to promote works and create opportunities led to a series of Women Painting Women exhibitions running concurrently across the globe. It was a wonderful show of solidarity and a thoroughly successful event for all concerned. I myself took part in the Glasgow exhibition which was represented by Art Exposure Gallery, which is one of Glasgow’s mainstay galleries that were founded over 20 years ago.
It was a pleasure to work with such a wonderful group of inspirational ladies at various stages of their artistic careers.

On the flipside, you photograph wildlife. Again, this takes so much time and patience. Can you show 2 images of your bird photographs and explain how the images were taken?

‘Baby Owl’

Yes, certainly. Last year I developed a very bad case of painters block due to some emotional turbulence and as such, I had to take some time away from the easel to clear my head. I wanted to use my time constructively and I have always been an animal lover who believes that the best way to regain inner balance is to spend time in the natural world. So I took my camera and pursued this as a way of not only interacting with wildlife but also in learning to gain a better understanding and control of my photographs.

‘The Valture’

I took a one day photography course with the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent and I would recommend this experience to anyone. It was wonderful and I gained a much better understanding of the workings and capabilities of my camera. Subsequently, I pursued this line of inquiry by documenting the raptors at the local Safari Park, thanks to the help of a kind group of falconers who work with the birds throughout the year.


Contact details:




Nadia Lazizi, Edinburgh, UK

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April 2014