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Mohammed Sami

Mohammed Sami. Detail from: The Final Curtain. 170x250 cm, acrylic on linen, 2020.

Iraqi-Swedish artist Mohammed Sami visits the Royal Institute of Art for an artist talk and open seminar. Sami approaches painting as an allegorical representation against the striking image of conflict and violence. His paintings explore belated memories triggered by common everyday objects and banal, from when he immigrated to Sweden as a refugee from his native Iraq.

Rather than using the theme of trauma as a testimony to the Iraq conflict, which he witnessed first-hand, Sami deploys painting to articulate war and memory, and loss obliquely. The semi-abstract register and multi-textured paint create a nuanced relationship between the original event and its present recollection in Sami’s artworks. These often appear playful, yet traditional genres such as the still-life, internal-external spaces and landscapes acquire a strange twist, muted, and turn into uncanny illusions. 

Sami applies the index and pun as delusive signifiers, as well as the historical harmonic composition, to free the painting from the need of imitating reality. Therefore, in many cases, his paintings appear to be about something else than the source of the trauma, which enables a transitive context for the viewers, and avoids being didactic. The affective nature of the paintings does not convey a concrete message. It thrusts us to an involuntary mode of critical inquiry, rather than a specific truth. 

Sami’s painting challenges the typical image of suffering and provides a symptomatic perspective of conflict dynamics and its effects through a slow personal reading. His autobiographical works aim to evoke a widespread sense of loss that inhabits cultures collectively. 

Mohammed Sami was born in Baghdad, Iraq, 1984. He studied drawing and painting at The Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad, Iraq 2005 and immigrated to Sweden in 2007. In 2015 he earned a first-class honours degree from Ulster University-Belfast school of art, Northern Ireland. He has completed his master’s degree in fine art at Goldsmiths College, London, 2018. Mohammed lives and works between London and Norrköping, Sweden.