Kareem Risan

Iraqi artist Kareem Risan reflects on the complexities of Iraq’s turbulent cultural history through periods of tragic destruction, resurgence and growth in his paintings and book works.

Born in Baghdad in 1960, Risan worked out of Baghdad amid the escalation in violence and political turmoil following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He left in 2005 and currently lives in exile, travelling between Jordan and Syria.

Risan uses art making as a way to capture the shifting social and physical landscapes of his homeland, highlighting the carnage caused by war. His technique, drawing on the nuanced history of modern painting in the Arab world, combines regional motifs and abstract modern forms. Often weaving text and drawing, with heavy layers of paint and saturated hues, Risan narrates a story of the after-effects of war through colour and form. Layers of subdued greys, blacks and browns with splashes of blood red reflect Iraq like an injured body with an indefinite recovery.

Risan has participated in Word into Art at the British Museum, as well as numerous shows in Tunisia, China, Jordan, Denmark and Paris.