Suad Al-Attar (Iraqi, b.1941) studied Fine Art at Baghdad University and California State University. As a child, Al-Attar was captivated by paining, and at eight, she was painting in oils. Al-Attar has had a prolific and unique career, holding her first solo exhibition at 16 years old (the first Iraqi woman to do so). By 21, Al-Attar had secured a significant presence on the Iraqi art scene. In 1976, the artist moved to London, and completed a number of post-graduate courses in art and design at Wimbledon School of Art and London Central School of Art and Design. Al-Attar has also practiced etching and lithography.
Al-Attar’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. Al-Attar has exhibited widely across the Middle East and Europe, and won the gold medal at the International Biennial of Cairo in 1984. Since then, she has exhibited at Albermarle Gallery, London, the Europa Gallery in LA, and the Centre d’Acceuil du Proche Orient, among others.
Al-Attar’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 dreamlike or poetic scenes. Al-Attar’s art also takes into account the Western traditions of figurative art.
Al-Attar’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. The artist has developed Sumerian cultural stories in this style, particularly the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel, and the story of Gilgamesh.
In recent years, Iraq’s turbulent history and recent war have introduced a foreboding element into her artwork, and Al-Attar has produced haunting visions of Baghdad on fire, or depicted mournful faces expressing feelings of loss and despair.