Zeinab Saleh: Softest Place on Earth

Zeinab Saleh, Breathing, 2021

Zeinab Saleh is a London-based artist whose interdisciplinary practice takes the form of painting, drawing and video. Drawing on VHS tapes of home video footage and music that has personal significance to her, Saleh’s work offers a glimpse into a past world and places personal histories at its core.

Drawn to working in charcoal, quick lines evoke fleeting and transient memories, whilst acrylic attempts to hold the intangible in form. A softness and tenderness imbues her paintings, using muted colours and fluidity of line and form. For Saleh, love is at the core of her working process. Fragmentary imagery and surfaces are held together by an emotive process of discovery and rediscovery as she uncovers stories and hidden memories in the family archive; as paintings take form they are enlivened by intimate conversations with her close relatives. Saleh’s work offers a backdrop of accumulated personal histories, holding an aura that links the personal to the collective, weaving her personal family stories with those of others.

Her studio-based practice is intimately intertwined with a community-building element; she co-founded Muslim Sisterhood with Sara Gulamali and Lamisa Khan – an artistic collective working within photography, fashion, publishing and events to create an inclusive community that centres Muslim women.

Zeinab Saleh (b.1996, Kenya) lives and works in London. She received her BFA from Slade School of Fine Art in 2019. Recent group exhibitions include Nour el Ain, Karma International, Switzerland (2021), After image, MAMOTH, London (2020), Zeinab Saleh and Yuko Mohri, CONDO London, mother’s tankstation London, (2020), A patch of green in London, Cookhouse Gallery, London (2019). Saleh co-founded Muslim Sisterhood; recently they have featured in the 26th Photoworks Journal; have been spotlighted in Vogue; their work has been exhibited at V&A Lates; they have hosted community-based workshops including tile glazing, belly dancing and self-defence.

Saleh is one of two artists resident at Metroland Studio in Kilburn, as part of a new partnership between Camden Art Centre and Metroland Cultures, the charity established to deliver Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture and its legacy beyond 2020. Each artist is provided with a 6-month offsite residency and space at Metroland Studio preceding an exhibition of their work at Camden Art Centre. Supported by Metroland Cultures in partnership with Brent Council, with funding from Arts Council National Lottery Heritage Fund.