Current exhibitions

Lilies for Oscar Wilde

 
Criticism will annihilate race-prejudices, by insisting upon the unity of the human mind in the variety of its forms. If we are tempted to make war upon another nation, we shall remember that we are seeking to destroy an element of our own culture
— The Critic As Artist - Oscar Wilde


Press release:

"A cultured Mahomedan" : Two flowers for Oscar Wilde have been dedicated to cultural diversity, tolerance and Black History Month by artist Salma Ahmad Caller.

Lilies for Oscar Wilde is a fascinating idea for a collaborative art installation in tribute to Oscar Wilde that will be unveiled at Reading Museum, located in Reading town centre not far from the historic Reading Gaol where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated. This collaboration will bring together the works of  over 60 artists and makers who live and work in Reading and will run from October 2017 (Black History Month), until January 2018.

Artist Salma Ahmad Caller has taken a unique and timely cross-cultural approach towards her tribute with two works that call attention to startling and often overlooked views in Oscar Wilde’s writings.

Salma says: ‘My tributes to Oscar Wilde are about the tragedy of the gaze. The danger of looking at those forbidden to us, the violence of looking at others who are different from us without seeing them, or as if into a mirror, and the violence of the patriarchal and colonial gaze. I engaged with Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, his essays The Decay Of Lying and The Critic As Artist where Wilde discusses art and ornament and quotes a ‘cultured Mahomedan’ in support of his opinions, and discusses ‘race-prejudices’. Wider notions of Orientalism and ornament also inform my work. I wondered who might this cultured Muslim have been? In Lily-2 I feature the intelligent calm face of freed slave Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, a cultured aristocratic Muslim from Senegal. In both works I foreground the Black Slave, the Syrian slave prince, and Salome, a woman and a Jew, and effectively also a slave, as main ‘character’ petals of each theatrical lily featuring Non-Western faces and objects.’

Title of works: Salome: A Tragedy in One Act of Looking: Lily-1 Dreaming in Black and White, and Lily-2 A Cultured Mahomedan.

Materials: 300gsm acid free watercolour paper, collage, Indian Ink, acrylic, gesso, watercolour, gold and silver pigment, acrylic mirror, wire.

Dimensions: H 45cm (stem 30cm) x W 25cm across

 

The Bodies of Dolls: Patterns of Sensation

September 2017 - November 2017:

I am delighted to be exhibiting two of the four Bodies of Dolls at the beautiful and stylish Nylon Salon in Reading:

 Myriad of the Hollows,  and Velvet Silk Purse -  from The Bodies of Dolls: Patterns of Sensation series.

You can read the full text about these new works below. 

June 2017 - August 2017:

Delighted to have been exhibiting my work  in Jelly Reading's  new exhibition space in Broad Street Mall and to have been part of the
Open For Art  weekend festival
forming part of Reading's Year of Culture 2017
30 June - 2 July 2017  in Reading

 

 



The Bodies of Dolls: Patterns of Sensation

This series of works on paper by artist Salma Ahmad Caller, explores the notion of the female body as an idea that is constructed, made like a folk doll’s body, from materials both real and imagined. The folk doll or fashion model is patterned and marked by how a society thinks about femininity. Each material used to make ‘her’ carries it’s own set of cultural notions, sensations and associations.‘She’ is often ornamented with patterned textiles, jewels, silk, velvet, embroidery, pearls, shells, tassels, bells, or associated with flowers, fruits and fertility, or with lace, nets, knots and webs, creating textures that carve ‘her’ body into zones of social and sexual importance.

Forces of cultural and social expectations mark and carve our bodies but also the things we touch and feel are etched onto us, mapping zones and patterns of our experiences, our traumas and losses, our sensuality and feeling.

Bringing the biological and the ornamental together to subvert the usual imagery of the female body, Salma uses decorative and ornamental forms, arabesques, whiplash and sinuous lines, and curvilinear shapes in her work, as a language of the biological sensational body, to try and capture the body we feel not the body we think we see.

The shape of the bodies of the ‘dolls’ in this series is based on the paisley tear drop shape or Boteh. An ‘Eastern’ ornamental form that has travelled and transformed across time. It has complex origins in many cultures, mainly from Iran, Azerbaijan and India and now has many connotations, of colonial trade, and a feminised and orientalised idea about ornament. Yet it had a previous changing life of meaning across cultures, symbolising or embodying concepts of eternity, life, of humility, of being bent under the weight of conquest, a fruit, a seed, a pine, a flower, a tear, that were not reserved for the feminine only.

These works on paper have been made using graphite, Indian Ink, collage, watercolour, acrylic and gold pigment.

 


Poems which accompany the works
 

The Shell Bell Shaking Doll

(Aluminium silver wax fur hair beads glass twine carved wooden body musk leather lace shells bells)

She was a multi-purpose object

And made a variety of textural sounds

Chinking of bells

Clicking of shells

The dull thud of organs suspended within a hollow

Their deep and heavy percussion

Reverberating

Tasselling around her

Prickling

Metallic fragments

Sound out from pale bells

And whitish shells

A chalky body

Carved and curved

Arching over

Her painfully embroidered beaded fabric heart

Lungs of lace rustling

Under a dome

Her shells and her bells

Rang out in another realm

Skeins of silvered twine

Slivers of shivering glass

Pelts of soft fur that cannot warm her

Hand strokes of paint are

Memories of a gentle touch

An aura of sound and movement

Are shaking out of her still

 

Silk Velvet Purse Doll

A mille-feuille

A body of a thousand layers

A thousand gauze tissues

A thousand substances

Concealing a darkened chamber

Entombing

A heavy velvet pouch

Profligate sensual reclining body feeling inwardly

Reaching caressing touching exploring the textures of the inside of a dark and empty space

Where nothing is also everything

A costly ornate body of sensation

Silk velvet skin silk thread silk tassel nerve endings

Silent silken hair spreading

A dense and tactile embroidery surrounds her slits tips lips edges and borders

Wires closely over-sewn create

Her ribs

Brushing stroking heating and burnishing

Made a body that is close textured lustrous gleaming and smooth

Intricate and laborious twisting and twirling of twines

Tiny invisible stitches hold rivets that hold rivulets

Of silk ending in the darkness

Where dreaming continues

The sleeping and dreaming of her invisible body

That dreaming heavy velvet body

Held in the darkness by a skin of sound

Pearl fastenings fasten her breast

Silk velvet velvet silk

Threads pulled tightly holding her in holding her inwards

Net gauze tissue

Lace wire mesh

Feathers

Locks of glossy hair

Fine shimmering strands of metal thread

Seeds metal beads sequins

A weaving of delicate traps that subdue mesmerise and enclose

Hiding her in intricacy and leading to labyrinths of the eternal

 

The Unravelling Glassfire Doll

Molten

Then violently quenched

Her core a cluster of delicate fractures

Never healed by a gentle annealing

Too quick from the glory hole

Chunked chinked cracked cleaved

From within a deeply frozen stillness a strangely faint sound

Is waiting and at some uncertain time shall detonate

Cold steel lips blew a breath of life from another

A first tiny bubble flickering down a blowpipe

Dispersing throughout her body

Bubbles of air and gases trapped in her cooling molten

Silesia silveria body

A bulbous soliflore

Starkly necked

To bear only one gift

A fluted and embossed tear

Chorded with textures and densities

That throw the light about

A blank and clear complexion

Imploded with a surge of burning rose

Her excess delicately unravelling spun glass

 

Myriad

Myriad of the hollows

With an eye in every cell

Splitting and spitting

Seeds and jewels

Saint of the hollows

Myriad of the Sorrows

The vessel of the body curves about a sacred hollow of emptiness

Out of which a carved voice unfolds

That dark pod concealed with a shimmering Membrane

Infinitely embracing each pip

Myriad Miriam Maryam Madonna of the Pomegranate

Resurrection of shadows.