Davood Roostaei is an Iranian artist. In the late 1970s, during the Iranian revolution, Roostaei was thrown in jail for two years for creating art that was considered subversive. Upon his release, he sought asylum in Germany and started his career as an artist in 1984 before later moving to America. Best known for painting with his fingers, rather than brushes, and his development of the Cryptorealism style, his art overlays images and perspectives to create hidden meanings within his work and has attracted the support of celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Hillary Clinton. His latest painting was inspired by the conflict in Ukraine and is both a mediation on peace and a call for it, he is hoping to sell the painting for $1 million and donate the profits to Ukraine relief.

These are a few of Davood Roostaei’s favourite things…


Painting is my life. Time stops when I am working with colour, bringing my visions to life on the canvas. They say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”; I am fortunate enough to say that is true for me. There is nothing else in this world that makes me happier than painting. I feel like I was born a painter — I completed my first oil painting when I was six years old. My life has been incredibly turbulent at certain stages and I would say painting has always brought me a certain kind of peace and joy, but I always wanted to develop my own unique way of depiction and that led to the creation of Cryptorealism. Cryptorealism is a painting method that I developed in the late 1980s. It is an expression of hidden meaning, revealed through layered imagery, which requires active participation by the observer. It is all about making the observer look beyond what is readily perceptible in both art and in life. In a way, I play a game of visual hide and seek with the viewer in my paintings.