My art practice, which is mainly visual but also text/sound works, involves creating an imagery of the narratives of body that have shaped my own body and identity across the profound cultural divides of my upbringing.
In particular I am drawn to investigate the painful and contradictory mythologies surrounding notions of ‘her’ and the process of exoticization and making strange of the female body. The legacy of colonialism is a cross-generational transmission of ideas, traumas, bodies and misconceptions.
I use my process to tease out and investigate my own subjective experience of the ways in which cultures and hegemonies create and construct body image and identity and how they also profoundly construct the physical senses of the body, carving out what we can see or feel. I take ‘Western’ images, of the woman’s body or of ‘other’ bodies and cultures from magazines and conceal them within complex ornamental layers of Indian Ink, watercolour, graphite and gold dust.
Contemporary ‘Western’ collage with its power to question conventions and create dissonance, used in juxtaposition with a deeply misunderstood ‘Eastern’ ornamental language and arabesque line, allows me to both integrate and interrogate the harsh boundaries between two ways of being that I have grown up with and to bring together discourses and dualities of the body and mind.
A hybrid of cultures and faiths, Salma Ahmad Caller was born in Iraq to an Egyptian father and a British mother and grew up in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. She now lives in the UK.
Her art practice is informed by a Masters in Art History &Theory, studying medicine, and teaching cross-cultural perspectives at Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, where she has worked closely with Oxford Brookes Artist Teacher Scheme, with their MA students and with Royal Collage of Art and artists of international repute.
Salma has been a practicing artist since her arrival in 1990 from Saudi Arabia and has exhibited in local spaces, galleries and art fairs in and around Oxford and London, including the North Wall gallery in North Oxford. More recently Salma has been exhibiting in new contemporary spaces in Reading, where she currently lives.
Remind Me To Remember: Group exhibition July 2018 OpenHand OpenSpace Gallery, Brock Keep, Reading
I created an entire installation within an old prison cell, exploring the memory of the body and the relationship of personal and private memory to wider social and political memory, for example, cross-generational memory/trauma, and colonial memory. Media: Works on paper, recorded narration, play of light and shadow, and use of glass vessels and containers to create embodied understanding of the distortions and fragmentation of memory and history.
Reading contemporary art fair April 2018
I used my stand to curate a small conceptual space exploring the constructed notions of the female body as curiosity, and other mythologies surrounding the female body.
‘A Cultured Mahomedan’ Two Lilies for Oscar Wilde at Reading Museum 2017/2018:
Sculptural work that I created for a large group show at Reading Museum. My contribution to the Lilies for Oscar Wilde installation were two conceptual lilies exploring notions of beauty and ornament and the colonial gaze using imagery from Oscar Wilde’s play Salome.
The Bodies of Dolls: Patterns of sensation: Solo exhibition for the opening of Jelly Reading’s new contemporary art space and part of Open for art 2017. This series of works on paper exhibited with text works, explored 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. And where materials themselves are culturally constructed and embedded with notions about women, ‘other’ and body that inculcate the values and ideas of the dominant ideologies via physical touch and sensation.
Teaching art and cross cultural perspectives:
December 2011 -March 2015
Pitt Rivers museum as Adult art education officer – teaching cross cultural perspectives, introducing the collections, running workshops working with Oxford community groups like Mind and North oxford Elderly care home - to make collections accessible and teaching about art of other cultures running arts awards sessions with Orchard
Working closely with Oxford Brookes and the Artist Teacher MA scheme to deliver an Interpretation full day workshop on engaging with objects from other cultures in the Pitt Rivers Museum collections.
Dr Rachel Payne - Subject Coordinator, Artist Teacher Scheme MA in Education Oxford Brookes University
"Salma Caller planned and delivered an exciting workshop to a group of MA Artist Teachers at the Pitt Rivers Museum exploring interpretation of the museum collection. She encouraged the students to critically engage with and debate the conceptual nature of museology with a particular focus on the complexities of cultural positionings of audience and curator. Students were provided with the opportunity to respond using creative making collaboratively, a process they found to be exciting, innovative and stimulating. The students made reference back to this workshop regularly, drawing on Salma's inspiring and intelligent engagement with visual culture throughout their Master's study."
Part of my role was to work with artists of international repute and with artists from the Royal College of Art, assisting them on how to engage creatively with objects of other cultures in the collections.
In June 2015 I designed, curated and ran a series of four workshops for art students aged 18 and over called Body and Beyond: Constructing and Transcending the Human Form at Pitt Rivers Museum as an independent artist and teacher. These workshops were designed as a mini course many of whom attended were Artist Teacher Scheme MA students
Masters in Art History (Distinction), The Open University 2010
Postgraduate Diploma in Art History (Distinction), The Open University 2007-2009
(comprising A840 Postgraduate foundation module in Art history and A841 Themes and issues in contemporary Art History)
Art and Its Histories A216 (Distinction), The Open University 2005. Art of the Twentieth Century AA318 (Distinction), The Open University 2006
Bachelor of Pharmacy (First Class Honours with Distinction), University of Bath 1993. AAH prize for outstanding student at Bath University awarded in 1993. Pfizer prize for Pharmacology awarded in 1992.
Part of my art practice is writing biographical and poetic material exploring body identity and the subjective construction of self and body across radical divides of the notions of East and West that defined my upbringing. Online image and text publications can be seen here:
Visual poetry presented here on the international platform for women poets by Christine Murray:
Minor Literatures online experimental literature and arts magazine: