Kamala Ishag at Serpentine Galleries
London 7th October 2022 – 29th January 2023
“Ishag has forged a unique and expansive practice which is not defined by a singular style or movement. Her work embraces and expresses different earthly and spiritual landscapes and histories of Sudanese visual culture across many eras. The artist also roots her practice around subjects including women, spiritualism, Zar ceremonies, plants and stories from her mother and grandmothers in relation to how she has experienced them.”
This week’s post is a heads-up for fans of the remarkable Sudanese artist, Kamala Ishag. Serpentine Galleries’ forthcoming exhibition opens a window onto her ever-evolving and multi-dimensional body of work. For those unfamiliar with her work, Kamala Ishag offers a challenging and intensely compassionate vision of human experience – especially the often hidden worlds of Sudanese women’s spiritual and emotional life.
Above, detail from Zar, Forests and Spirits exhibition, 2018. Photo: Imogen Thurbon.
Article title photo, Imogen Thurbon, from the same exhibition.
“Ishag is recognised for painting groups of women with their faces distorted in crystalline spheres and cubes and plant forms. In a palette of muted hues, she roots her images in the colours of the sun, sand and sky of the earthly and spiritual subject matter she depicts. Her work centres on the intangible aspects of women’s lives in Sudan. Ishag’s inspiration draws from the field research she carried out there with spiritualist women convening healing zar ceremonies in the 1960s, which she connected to the visionary work of William Blake (1757-1827), particularly his exploration of spirituality and incarnation through the sublime in his paintings and poetry.”
Read more in Kamala Ishag Press Release
Above, The River of Life by William Blake.
“We still have the two trees planted by my grandparents all those lifetimes ago in our garden here, she explains, and every year when the men come to prune them, I beg them – please don’t be brutal with them; please don’t take the axe to them and harm them. Cut them gently with something that’s gentle – nothing hard or metallic. You know, when someone dies who has planted and loved a tree, the tree will often die too. I love plants. I greet them in the morning. I worry if my plants are too hot or cold and I can’t cover them or protect them from the elements.”
Kamala Ishag’s comments in her Institut Français video interview, referenced in Forests and Spirits. Learn more about her work and the special place plants have in her creative lexicon in my blogpost below.
Below, from Serpentine Galleries – Kamala Ishag
“Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Two Women (Eve and Eve), 2016. Oil on canvas, 205 x 190cm. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Mohamed Noureldin Abdallah Ahmed. © Kamala Ibrahim Ishag.”
Ishag has always been drawn to the challenges and impact of large scale work. Learn more about her murals in
Below, detail from Ishag’s mural tribute to the Sudan National Museum in Khartoum.
Photo, Imogen Thurbon.