‘The perpetual sense of longing for home has always been balanced by an awareness of the freedom that comes from distance.’
Suad Al-Attar studied fine art at Baghdad University and California State University. As a child Suad was captivated by paining, at eight she was painting in oils. Suad has had a prolific and unique career, holding her first solo exhibition at sixteen years old, she was the first Iraqi woman to do so. By twenty-one Suad had secured herself a significant visible presence on the Iraqi art scene. In 1976 Suad moved to London with some of her family and completed a number of postgraduate courses in art and design at Wimbledon School of Art and London Central School of Art and Design. Suad has also practiced etching and lithography.
Suad’s work is on display in a number of prestigious public and private collections including the British Museum, the Gulbenkian collection and the Museum of Modern Art in Kuwait. Suad has exhibited widely across the Middle East and Europe. won the gold medal at the International Biennieal of Cairo in 1984. Since then she has exhibited at Albermarle Gallery, London, at the Europa gallery in LA, at the Centre d’Acceuil du Proche Orient, amongst many others.
Suad’s work is rooted in the visual traditions of her homeland and makes use of elements of Islamic design and Assyrian art to express inner concepts of freedom, home and life. Her departure from Iraq and separation from family members created new reflections and memories of her home. Many of her works represent scenes from Arab legends and folklore, or detailed gardens filled with flora and fauna presenting heavily detailed dreamlike or poetic scenes. Suad’s art also takes into account the western traditions of figurative art.
Suad’s work has experienced a number of transformations since she began painting. These changes have been influenced by her relationship with Iraq and its history. Her development of beautiful mystical scenes of gardens and cities reflect her love of the city of Baghdad in which she was inspired by the domed architecture of the mosques, the palm trees and the sounds of the city at night. These visions are from her childhood and reach a place of solitude, safety and reflection; they are paintings that one can get lost in. Suad has developed Sumerian cultural stories in this style, particularly the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel and the story of Gilgamesh. The viewer is frequently asked to explore these canvases and respond to ambiguous imagery, they provoke emotions and feelings that do not necessarily connect to the spoken word. Suad’s work thus transcends national boundaries and is hugely successful in the western world.
In recent years Iraq’s turbulent history and recent war have cast a foreboding element into her artwork, and Suad has produced haunting visions of Baghdad on fire or depicted mournful faces propelling feelings of loss and despair. A new palette replaced the old one. However, Le Violon Bleu is currently exhibiting a new work by Suad ‘Peaceful Spirit’ which demonstrates a return to her earlier style. The intense blue and dreamlike cityscape are a sumptuous combination.