These large, carved wooden sculptures by the Iranian Christian sculptor Saloomeh Asgary were inspired during hours of prayer and worship.
Saloomeh Asgary was born in Iran in 1981. She studied painting and sculpture in Tehran before opening her own studio there. When she became a Christian she devoted her skills and talents to God. These sculptures cannot be shown in Iran because conversion to Christianity is illegal. In 2009, Saloomeh left Iran for Turkey. She is now based at Elam, an Iranian theological college in Surrey.
“Over the two years that I spent chiseling and shaping these sculptures, the Lord was chiseling and shaping me. Many times I can see how God has worked in me. I am the seventh sculpture whom my Creator God has made.”
Entry and opening times
Entry to the exhibition is free of charge.
The exhibition is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Saturday, and from 12.00 noon to 3.00pm on Sunday, except when a service or event is in progress.
An interview with Saloomeh Asgary
1. Do you come from an artistic family?
I don’t come from a professional artistic family. However my mother is very gifted at working with cloth and both my parents have encouraged me. My father was the owner of a factory carpet before he retired.
2. What art did you do when you were growing up?
From my childhood I would draw and paint and make hand crafts. And as a child and teenager I started making sculptures.
3. What sort of painting did you do at university? Was it difficult being a woman?
I did oil and acrylic painting – both abstract and modern.
It was not difficult being a woman artist at university because there are many in Iran and some of them are teachers and lecturers.
4. What is the situation regarding contemporary art in Iran? Can you compare it with how art is taught and practised in England?
Contemporary art is doing really well in Iran. More artists are getting involved in every sphere, especially in sculpture. And there are more teachers.
I haven’t seen how art is taught in England so I can’t really comment, but I can say we have many fine teachers in Iran and they are willing to take on interns.
Maybe one difference is that there is more expensive technology in the UK than in Iran.
At the start of the Islamic Regime there were many limitations because of Islam, but now there is a lot more freedom for making sculptures. However there are limitations, so for example you cannot make a sculpture of a nude. Also it was difficult for me to work on Christian topics.
5. Tell us about how you became a Christian?
I was born into a Muslim family. When I was a teenager I began a relationship with the man who is now my husband, Roozbeh. At first he was a Muslim, but then he became a Christian. Roozbeh shared the Gospel with me. I did not accept the Gospel and told him the relationship had to end. Roozbeh gave me a New Testament and I read it every night and then slept. One night Jesus came into my dream and said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life…and everything Roozbeh is telling you is true.’ After this I had many questions and was very curious about Christianity. After some studying and finding out the answers to my questions I became a Christian.
6. How is the Christian message spread in Iran?
By satellite TV; by reading books, especially the New Testament; by the internet. Also there are house churches and these grow as friends invite friends.
Unfortunately in Turkey I wasn’t able to get on with my art. But I was happy to serve Iranians in Turkey with my husband.
There were many believers in Turkey, so this was a good experience for me. I grew in my Christian life and had many new experiences. I learned a lot.
7. What can you tell us about Elam Ministries where you are now based?
Elam Ministries is a registered charity in the UK founded by Iranian Christian leaders in 1990 to serve the suffering but growing church in Iran.
Elam Ministries does this primarily by providing Iranians with the Bible in Persian, sharing the Gospel via the internet and satellite TV, and giving training to Iranian Christians who want to serve their church.
When there have been arrests and intimidation Elam has sought to be a voice for the Christians who are suffering.
To find out more please visit www.elam.com