Salam Atta Sabri

Year and place of birth: 1953, Baghdad, Iraq Location: Baghdad, Iraq
Salam Atta Sabri 1

Salam Atta Sabri is one of the most important Iraqi artists of his generation. He is trained as a ceramist, but also makes sculptures, paintings and drawings. He lived in the United States for sixteen years. During his stay, he studied at the California State University in Los Angeles, before moving to Jordan. When he returned to his native city of Baghdad in 2005, the situation there was particularly precarious: conflicts between militias, extreme violence, political instability, corruption and chaos. Lacking the basic material for ceramics, Atta Sabri started drawing. His visual idiom comprises both modernist elements and motifs from the ancient civilisations situated between the Tigris and Euphrates.

Atta Sabri’s return to Baghdad is a connecting theme of the many drawings he has made since 2005; works in which he endeavours to grasp, interpret and critically engage with the immense and conflicting changes that have occurred, as well as the corruption, the constant violence and the political instability into which his country has fallen. Due to a shortage of art supplies in Iraq, he initially created these works using pencils borrowed from his daughters. From that point onwards, Atta Sabri created literally hundreds of drawings, which function as both a personal visual archive and a diary of the evolutions in Baghdad and Iraq. The drawings entitled Letters to my father (2010 - 2019) are published in their entirety in the eponymous book and can be see as visual letters with textual insertions to a beloved father. They form an intimate snapshot of a one-way conversation between the artist and his father, both biographical and historical, a combination of diary elements and correspondence.

The work of Salam Atta Sabri was included in Invisible Beauty, the exhibition for the Iraq Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale.

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