Tasleem Mulhall is an artist deeply influenced by her Yemeni origins, came to England at the age of fifteen, bringing with her aspects of her own rite of passage and coming-of-age experiences, including witnessing the everyday subjugation of women living in a society that casually regarded male domination as the norm.
When not engaged in painting or sculpture, Tasleem still follows her career as a freelance press photographer; finding in it’s factual reportage a counter-balance to the emotional demands associated with producing the surreal and abstract paintings and sculptures that largely characterize her creative output.
An occasional return to photography, she says, can be regenerative; a once in a while coming up for air. But, with a developing need to express her art and craft in three dimensions – whilst still painting with great enthusiasm – she continues to be drawn, emotionally, physically, toward sculpture.
Tasleem is the first British Yemeni female artist to be hailed, internationally, as a highly gifted artist whose challenging work is destined for exhibition in the world’s most influential galleries.
Please could you tell us about your background and how it leads to the work you do today?
I was born and brought up in Yemen, and although I ran away from home as a teenager, my background is and will always be very important to me. It defines who I am and drives who I aspire to be, not just as a human being but also as an artist. Many of the themes that pervade my art come from the oppression and injustices that I endured, simply for being a woman in male dominated Arabic culture.
Where are you based?
I am based in Redlees Studios in Isleworth , but I have exhibited all over London, including everywhere from a small pop-up gallery in Mayfair to the prestigious Mall Gallery by Buckingham Palace.
How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it before?
That is very hard as it covers such a diverse range of mediums from photography, to oil paintings, to clay models to large cast iron sculptures. But anyone coming to it for the first time might recognise some of the global themes that I try to address. I hope that my work speaks out to all oppressed women around the world and inspires them to seek the freedoms that should be theirs, the education that is their right and the equality they deserve.
Who else is behind your brand?
I am very lucky in that I have four wonderful children who are a hundred percent behind me, most kids come back and share the sofa with a family cat to snuggle up with but my kids have to share the sofa with giant cast iron statues, barbed wire crucifixes, life size mummies, sheep skulls, and huge sculptures of AK47’s surrounded by Arabic swords! But my children are my greatest achievement and I am so proud of them and who they are as human beings. I hope my life as an artist has taught them that they are the masters of their own destiny and that they should let their hearts live free and their spirits fly high, so they can decide their own future as I was never allowed to myself.”
I am also supported by an incredible group of friends behind the scenes, who help me with exhibitions, with metal work, and my writing and my admin. I couldn’t do it without them.
What or who has been the biggest singular influence on your work?
I think it was my teacher when I was aged about 14 . She was unmarried, single and very glamorous which was unusual in itself for our culture and a bit rebellious herself and one day she took us all on a trip to the beach and she pointed to the distant sea and she said, “Look at the ocean, there is life beyond there, beyond family, beyond Yemen.” I can still remember those words and that was the seed that first inspired me and started me to believe that maybe there was more to life than a forced marriage. She was my inspiration. This made me realise that I don’t want to tolerate my home country’s oppression anymore and this was my turning point for me and the beginning of my story.”
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
I don’t enjoy any of my projects, they are all torturous! When I conceive the idea in my head it is always wonderful but trying to put that into reality can be a tortuous process, but the bit I enjoy the most is finishing it and seeing something born in my mind, turned into a reality – that makes it all worthwhile.
Where people can find more about you and your future projects?
They can find more about me at my
Facebook page TasleemMulhall
Instagram at tasleemmulhall