Mahla Karimian


Mahla Karimian is a visual artist whose emerging practise has been predominantly focussed on classical Persian scratchboard and photography. This experience in linear markmaking has translated flawlessly into needlepoint etching. Karimian’s technical and chemical fluency in photography from a degree in Tehran University has allowed her to expand rapidly into difficult etched tonal work via aquatint, spitbiting and chine collé.

As a woman born during and Islamic regime Karimian was forbidden from any kind of artistic practice Iran. Her determination to create led her to enduring multiple terms of imprisonment from a young age. An unplanned departure, traumatic boat journey and time in detention extended the time Karimian was not able to develop and expand her art practice. Resilience and resourcefulness have allowed Karimian to convert and associate these traumatic experiences with processes and techniques that increase her artists vocabulary.


My life experience has left my soul scarred and scratched, and so in the same way that life has scarred me, I scratch the surface of paper and use this process to create my artworks. This method of working is a visual reflection of how I feel, and it ultimately allows me to create something beautiful out of something painful.


Persian miniatures traditionally feature rich detail and strong colours, telling stories through symbology. Karimian’s adaptation is personal and contemporary- luscious brushes are swapped for the cutting needles that fit her narrative, vivid colours substituted to stark black, white and metallic, rendering images that are both dark and beautiful. The pain is an undercurrent concealed in sweeping elegance.

In Persian culture old stories are told in a language of poetic metaphors- using flowers and birds. Inspired by this rich history Karimian uses visual vocabulary to describe the struggle that led her from where she began in Iran, then an unceremonious departure, followed by a dangerous journey that landed in a detention centre—where she fell in love with a fellow detainee. Eventually they have been allowed to make a new home in Melbourne.

B. Tehran, Iran

2013 : Diploma of Architecture from Tehran-Markaz University Iran, Tehran

2011 : Degree in Photography from Azad University Iran, Tehran


2017 Silk Road, Heritage Hill Museum & Docklands library Melbourne, Australia

2017 Awakening Exhibition at Convent Melbourne, Australia

2016 Home & Art Exhibition at Walker Street Gallery Melbourne, Australia

2015 Mental Health Art Exhibition Melbourne, Australia

2012 Dance in the Wind, a scratchboard exhibition Tehran, Iran

2011 Photography Exhibition at Norang Gallery Tehran, Iran



2016 Home and Art Prize  Walker Street Gallery Melbourne, Australia