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Patrick Heide Contemporary Art is delighted to present the first solo exhibition of Iraqi artist Mohammed Sami entitled ‘Apocrypha’.
Mohammed Sami’s paintings explore the stratifications of memory and trauma triggered by common everyday objects and environments. He employs diffused and layered messages that can be read in multiple ways to grasp our imagination. Rather than directly relating to the Iraq conflict, which he witnessed first-hand, Sami’s paintings articulate its recollection remotely and obliquely – usually through traditional painting subjects such as still-life, interiors and landscapes, pervaded by a sense of unease, absence and metaphorical allusion.
“Painting is the means by which I engage the traces of personal memory” Sami explains. “Memories are curious things, sometimes they masquerade as shadows, objects, smell or even something banal, without revealing themselves as memories…”
Displacement II shows a plug and an outlet that do not match in a somewhat derelict interior. The cable is laying on the floor devoid of its function, a lack of contact and communication silently pervades the image. In Family Issues I and II, paintings devoid of people, like all of Sami’s recent works, the strain of human tragedy is almost palpable. In Skin the carpets, symbols of oriental culture and history, are beautifully rendered yet claustrophobically placed. On a closer glance it is hard not to think of wounded flesh. 23 Years of Night shows a boarded-up interior, mirrored and fragmented. The impossibility to enter or to look in from the outside alludes to a safe domestic space while a war or other danger rages beyond its limits. A place of inner warmth amongst external turmoil. Sami accomplishes to pair loneliness with beauty. Violent tension with tranquillity. A post-apocalyptic aura that bears the seed of renewal, a healing scar, the silence after a fight.
Migrant’s stories have been told for centuries, yet Mohammed Sami’s story is very much one of the 21st century. His arrival as a political refugee in Europe resulting in a scholarship at the Master program of Goldsmith’s college in London can be seen as a story of liberation and personal achievement, and as a victory of human and democratic values. Nonetheless, Sami’s paintings poignantly voice ongoing anxieties and century old traumas that still haunt him even in his present existence. Yet Sami has found a vital path to express himself. His paintings bear glimmers of hope. They don’t educate or accuse. They tell their stories with sincerity and human empathy.
Mohammed Sami’s works are part of the Government Art Collection and the York Museum Trust.
Supported by The Swedish Arts Grants Committee and Arts Council England.