The Girls We Love - Zahra Holm

Zahra Holm, a self-taught painter with a soft and warm universe

This week we are going to meet Zahra Holm. OSwedish and Tunisian by origin, the works of this self-taught painter have as their theme the human body and female forms. Zahra invites us to her beautiful studio in Ivry-sur-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris. She comes to the Fabrique Artistes , a place where painters, sculptors and photographers go to work. Zahra goes there every day to create and promote her art. His workshop is at number 14 and once through the door, you enter a sublime bright space in which you can find all his paintings in beautiful summer colors. Together, we discussed his art, his inspirations and his taste for vintage and colorful pieces.


Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

My name is Zahra and I am a painter. When I was little, I drew a lot and then I started painting when I was a teenager. I don't have a classic painter's background. I first did a year of artistic preparation in which I was able to try out a lot of things. I did museography, scenography, interior design and above all a lot of painting. Although I wanted to paint professionally, I didn't think it was really possible for me. I don't come from a family of artists and I didn't have any examples of people who had succeeded in doing it. It was my dream job and I told myself that one day I would be able to make a living from my passion but it wasn't the time yet.

I studied scenography for 5 years and then worked in cinema and theater creating sets. After several internships in this environment, I realized that I wanted something else, more freedom in my work. That’s when I started exploring lots of painting techniques and mediums. Then it became very therapeutic for me, it was where I felt really good. It was in 2015 that I really got into painting and since then I have painted every day.


How would you define your work and your artistic process?

I paint with oil and often work on several paintings at the same time because working with oil involves long drying times. Depending on my desires, I can work on both series and single paintings. For my latest series Blue Landscape in the Head , I work on the 3 paintings at the same time in order to keep the same colors in each painting because it is difficult to create continuity in terms of colors and shapes. I do it very intuitively and working in this way allows me to keep this same spirit throughout the series.


What inspires you to create your paintings ?

The main theme that I address in my paintings is the human body and in particular the female body. Body language interests me a lot, it has always fascinated me. I want to show women differently, differently from the image that society has of them. The faces I paint are not completely feminine either, rather it is the round shapes in my paintings that can be perceived as more feminine.

I am also very inspired by nature. I am Tunisian and Swedish by origin and I was lucky to grow up with a lot of nature around me. It was during last year, during confinement, that I realized that nature was a great source of inspiration for me. That’s when I started developing my Landscapes in the Head series. We needed warmth and that’s also why they are full of sun, light and sunsets.

At the moment, I'm working on a series centered on the sea: Blue Landscapes in the Head . This time, there are shades of green and blue. The sea is a strong subject for me because I find that it is very linked to humans. She can be very agitated or very calm like us. By painting on another support which is natural linen, I obtain a less smooth and more faded finish which I really like. The undulations of this canvas are reminiscent of waves. In this series, humans and the sea become one.


How would you define your artistic style?

I would say that my style is between the figurative and the abstract. This varies between paintings, for example Asleep in the Sun is a more abstract painting than other paintings I have here. I think that I don't have just one style after all and that it has evolved a lot over time. What I find most interesting is to have something a little abstract all the same, so that everyone can see a little of what they want and make their own interpretation. For my part, I guide the viewer towards the elements that I want to show. In my case, it is the faces, because for me they are the reflection of the soul and the feelings.


In addition to painting, you also do ceramics...

Yes, I tried it some time ago. I really like working on the land but I can't do much because I don't have the equipment in my workshop. When I have the opportunity, I like to create cups, plates, vases, bowls that feature the curves and colors that I love so much.


How would you define your style in 3 words?

Masculine-feminine, colorful and comfortable . I love dressing up, it’s quite an expression. I like to be original in my look and I'm not afraid to mix prints.


What is the favorite piece in your wardrobe?

A Saint Laurent blazer jacket that I found over 5 years ago. She's cool because she has a great 80's cut, beautiful shoulder pads and a super pointy collar. Its cut is very graphic and it is fitted. Plus, it has black, yellow, red and orange stripes! With black pants and a little top it's amazing! I love it, it allows you to be classy and cool at the same time.


What is your latest fashion crush?

I've been liking the 90s trend for a while now. Otherwise, I love the Paloma Wool brand and I bought some very nice green printed pants from this brand recently.


What is the one piece that a woman must have in her wardrobe?

Well-cut jeans. I put it on every day, it's really practical. It's casual and also works for a classier look in the evening.


Tell me an Instagram account that you love to follow

I really like @mirandamakaroff's account which is super colorful, quirky and funny. As she is a stylist and painter, her account is quite a mix of art and fashion. It's super refreshing and fun to follow.


Tell me a brand you love

I really like Maison Cleo which is a very ethical brand.


What are the eco-friendly habits that never leave you?

I'm Swedish and we've been recycling there for a very long time so it's something I've been doing forever. I haven't eaten meat for a while either because I don't really like it. I also try to reduce my plastic consumption as much as possible and choose trains over planes. Finally, I have been against fast fashion for a very long time and I mainly consume second-hand vintage or products from ethical brands.


What does lingerie mean to you?

In lingerie, I am much simpler than with the rest of my clothes. I like simple and comfortable underwear because lingerie is very intimate and personal for me. The body is already beautiful in itself and I like not to overdo it. I think it's prettier to have simple pieces. Finally, I like lingerie that combines comfort with something pure and finer.


Are you more lace or printed?

I prefer simple lace pieces.


Underwire or without?

Without ! I don't like underwired at all, I've never found it comfortable.


What is your favorite Nénés model?

I really like the amber Mia but I love all the Nénés lace triangles by the way.


What are your plans for the rest of 2021?

I am going to do some collaborations with brands in ready-to-wear and home decoration. I will also be part of an exhibition which brings together 26 women artists, the theme will be "Sea view" and it is on this occasion that I began my series Blue landscapes in the head.