Haleh Jamali is a portrait artist. Self-portraits and family members are her most frequent subjects but in her earlier works she also painted imaginative portraits. Artists create portraits for many different reasons. They have been used as icons to picture power or to tell stories; sometimes-fascinating stories behind the sitters and the artists. But for Haleh the most important aspect of using portraits is to shape people’s identities.
She was interested in painting from an early age and her family encouraged her to follow her passion and study painting in college of Fine Arts at Tehran University. In 2005 she moved to London and received her MA in Art and Media Practice from the University of Westminster.
Haleh says that before moving to the UK, she produced a series of landscape and still life paintings alongside other figurative works but then decided to concentrate on painting portraits. She started working with her own self-portrait and portraits of woman she knew. Soon this became the focus of her work but later she also created portraits of men. The three series of her paintings, "Maral" (3 portraits), "Muse" (16 portraits) and "Distance" (20 portraits) are the result of her exploration in this subject matter. Some works are autobiographical and very personal which have been informed by artist's personal experience while others respond to more collective experiences.
In “Maral” series, she tried to change the relationship between the viewers and the portraits. Instead of having paintings surrounded by the viewer she tried to create an environment where viewers were surrounded by the portraits.
In “Muse” series, she is implying that even portraits with an almost identical posture can communicate different feelings. In "Distance", she is trying to re-introduce the narrative elements in her works and providing some clues about the person/people in the paintings so that the viewers can interpret the picture from their point of view based on their own background and experiences.
"Someone who is not like anyone", "Departure and "Layers"
Living in Scotland had a great impact on her work. She started working with new medias including video and created her three videos; "Someone who is not like anyone" 2007, "Departure" 2011and "Layers" 2011.
In "Someone who is not like anyone" she explores the issues of identity among female immigrants, as related to their appearance. During the process of assimilation into multicultural societies, their identities become fluid via choices in lifestyle and clothing.
In "Departure", which was a collaboration with a performer, Monica De Ioanni she focused on the struggle to overcome any challenge or obstacle and any perceived limitations. Finally "Layers" for her is a metaphor for articulating transformation of internal and external selves.
For Haleh, an artist is a person who has an original idea, albeit a very simple idea. She says the most enjoyable moment for her as an artist is when she witnesses the interaction of the viewers with her work.
Haleh’s artwork appears in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. In February, her work, "Someone who is not like anyone" was shortlisted for the 6th International Arte Laguna Prize in Venice-Italy. More recently she participated in the Fashion and Art Festival in Toronto, Canada (April 2012).
In the multimedia report on this page Haleh Jamali talks about the ideas behind her works.