Portraits of the Unseen - Chasing Mirrors

The National Portrait Gallery is working with three community partners in West London to deliver a three-year project from 2009 - 2011, working with young people and families from Tallo Information Centre in Ealing, Afghan Association Paiwand in Barnet, and An Nisa, a Muslim women's organization, in Brent.


© National Portrait Gallery, London and the Chasing Mirrors Collective

Each year a different lead artist will collaborate with participants via a series of creative workshops to explore the Gallery's Collection, exploring issues around identity and cultural representation, to produce an exhibition of new work at the Gallery.

The first of these exhibitions, Chasing Mirrors, ran from October 2009 - January 2010. The second, Chasing Mirrors: Portraits of the Unseen, is taking place from 15 October 2010 - 9 January 2011. The third will take place at the Gallery in Autumn 2011.

The content of the creative workshops will draw on the expertise and artistic practice of the lead artist and will be shaped through the input of the participants. The medium used will vary and could include painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, mixed media or poetry in response to the Collection and the genre of portraiture. This project is funded by John Lyon's Charity


Photography: Alinah Azadeh/Chasing Mirrors, 'Portraits Of The Unseen/detail'. Courtesy: NPG/Chasing Mirrors.

In this second year of the project, the work in this installation will result from collaboration between artist Alinah Azadeh and the same groups who took part last year. The installation will move away from representation through human image: the outer, familiar manifestation of identity. Instead, participants will explore how portraits of the inner, ‘hidden' self can be created. Personal objects will be wrapped with cloth, concealing them and making them a part of the collective piece. Text will be integral as it is in traditional Islamic culture, in this case using the many languages spoken within the community groups.

Alinah Azadeh


Photograph: Alinah Azadeh

Alinah Azadeh is a British-Iranian artist with a background in painting, new media and video. Since her MA in Media Arts Practice at Westminster University (2001), she has created installations that combine textile media with texts and networked technology. Collaboration and mass participation are central to her work, either with other practitioners or the audience itself.
Recent projects include The Shape of Things : The Gifts, a textile installation for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery (Feb 6 - April18, 2010): 999 small objects were donated by members of the public which had personal meaning for the Giver. These were wrapped and bound using fabric and yarn, and suspended from the ceiling of the gallery to form a large composite piece.


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