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Adeela Suleman

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1970, Karachi, Pakistan
Lives and works in Karachi, Pakistan

Adeela Suleman is a contemporary artist who specializes in individualized reliefs, sculptures and installations made from combinations of different materials. Her brand of art involves using unusual materials to depict grave concerns such as safety, terrorism, murder, destruction and women's empowerment. She revels in bringing about a comic element to her works, despite the seriousness of their themes.



Bachelor of Fine Arts (Sculpture), Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi, Pakistan


MA in International Relations, University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan


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Suleman forms an individual connection with the material in her works

Adeela Suleman's signature style of art that is reflected through the medium of her reliefs or sculptures or installations are a juxtaposition of her individual connection with the material and how she interprets it. For her there is an underlying humour even in the most mundane of household objects, for example basic kitchen utensils such as knives, spoons, jars, and so on, or even other drab objects such as drain covers, screws, nails, bolts, and fasteners to bathroom fittings, shower heads, and water pipe chain connections fascinate her. The most important aspect is that she reacts to them in the most unusual way - by creating an ornamental, steel helmet for protection from kitchen injuries caused by these utility items to the lady of the house whilst she is at work.

Adeela Suleman, Feroza, Turquoise, 2005, reproduced in Cooking utensils, spoons, jar, powder coating & enamel paint; inside padded with foam & cloth, 18 x 10 x 10 ". Courtesy of the artist.

Some of her creations are dedicated to women's empowerment

Through the understated humour in her earliest pieces, Adeela made a subtle statement on women's empowerment and their issues. Her pieces appear to be an ode to the confinement of women in their tight, domestic spheres and yet she highlights the dignity of their contribution to family life through their myriad activities in the kitchen or other domestic chores. Her former sculptures comprising of body armors, helmets and corsets are always visually appealing and intricately designed.

Adeela Suleman, Untitled, 2008, powder coated and enamel painted steel cooking utensil, steel spoon and cycle ornament, with foam and cloth, 10.5 x 17.5 x 14". Signed and dated in Urdu (inner rim).

Her recent works are full of grim irony

The humour in her earlier creations has been replaced by a grim irony. Being a Masters in International Relations at the University of Karachi and as a conscientious and open-minded citizen of Pakistan, she reacts to the current socio-political state of affairs in her country via her art but as she states, "I am not an activist. I am observing and acknowledging because one is aware of the surroundings , we don't live in a bubble. I am not making a judgment on what should happen or not".

The dwindling sense of safety and the bane of terrorism shrouding day-to-day life affect the artist. Her overtly decorative and ostentatious works are actually camouflaging a dark subject matter, mostly pertaining to death, destruction, murder, violence and genocide. Deploying popular symbology from both eastern and western mythologies, her elaborate sculptures such as 'After All It's Always Somebody Else Who Dies 1, 2, and 3' comprising of three works in which hundreds of steel birds are interlocked to form curtains that hang from the ceiling are multi-layered, deeply moving and disturbing to the onlooker, all at once.

Thus, even if birds appear as couples in love, they actually are pieced over a neat graveyard akin to an individual unit in a grid. As she states "In specific terms,one relates chirping noisiness with the birds but in the curtain of birds , there is complete silence. The birds are dead and they appear in a methodical pattern and the pattern repeats itself. The moment one discovers that the birds are dead, one is haunted by the silence."

In Untitled 1 (Peacocks with Missiles), one discovers to much dismay and horror, a suicide bomber's jacket at the center of the creation featuring an otherwise stunning bird known for its lush, multi-hued feathers. And the ultimate sardonic statement lies in the fact that the peacocks' verdant plumage is about death and destruction and not of prosperity and flourish.

Adeela Suleman, UNTITLED 4 (SUICIDE JACKET WITH LEMON TREE) (Ed. of 3), 2010, steel, 65 x 25".

Adeela Suleman, Detail of After All it's Always Somebody Else who Dies, 2010, hanging steel installation, 281.9 x 130.8 cm.

Adeela Suleman, UNTITLED 1 (PEACOCKS WITH MISSILES) (Ed. of 3), 2010, Steel, 106 x 170".

She is deeply rooted in local culture and deploys local artisans in her workshops

Her art is perfectly rooted in the culture that she hails from and she likes working closely with the local karigar or artisan. As she candidly admits in an interview with ArtNow , her ancestors fabricated artefacts from wood and sold them in India and inspired by such a vibrant lineage, she designs and actualizes 3 Dimensional sculptures, whilst believing in  Michelangelo's philosophy that "a man paints with his brains and not with his hands". Thus, her myriad creations are her mind's reaction to the tumult she witnesses all around her whilst she deftly deploys services of skilled native workers.

Adeela Suleman, UNTITLED  6, 2011, stainless steel, wood, gold plating, mirror and fabric, 50 x 50".

Contemporary pieces are flattened and voluminous

From her well-contained and compact pieces, she has progressed to designs that are more spread out and flatter in volume and appear mostly as montages and depictions on steel sheets or beaten silver platters. She has turned to more organic forms and designs pieces which are more natural and de-constructed.

Adeela Suleman, MUBARIZUN - NO MORE SERIES 1, 2014, steel, iron and brass, 110 x 108".