Dalloul Art Foundation

Dalloul Art Foundation

SUAD AL ATTAR SUAD AL ATTAR

SUAD AL ATTAR, Iraq (1942)

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Bio

Written by Arthur Debsi

Suad Al Attar was born in Baghdad in 1942 and came from an artistic family; her mother, Anisa Al Attar (1910-2002) trained in painting in Beirut, Lebanon, and her younger sister, Layla Al Attar (1944-1993) was also a painter and director of the former Center for National Art (now Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad). Surrounded by books and works of art at home as she recalled[1], the girl started painting at the age of 8 and quickly received support from her parents who gave her a room converted to a studio where she could practice. During several events in high school, Al Attar used to exhibit some of her artworks, which caught the attention of the renowned painter Jewad Selim (1919-1961)[2]. In the early 1960s, she obtained a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Baghdad – where she would later teach until 1975 – and a diploma from the California State University where she stayed three years. At that time, Iraq was a major hub for art and culture in the region and worldwide, but the presence of women in the field was quite unusual. Yet, when she turned 21 years old, Al Attar progressively gained recognition in the art scene of the city[3]. She contributed to the development of the Baghdad Group for Modern Art and she was also the first Iraqi female artist to hold a solo exhibition in Baghdad in 1965. Simultaneously, she participated in many exhibitions held in Europe and the Middle East, giving Iraq international exposure. In 1976, she moved to London with her husband and children and remained there from then on. There, she completed her training attending post-graduate classes in printmaking and etching at the Wimbledon School of Art and the London Central School of Art and Design.

Fascinated by the predispositions of his daughter Suad to art, Ali Sadiq Al Attar offered her an album of postcards illustrating the artworks of some European artists such as the French painter Camille Corot (1796-1875). Highly inspired by these images, she used to imitate them. 

In the Arab world, the 1960s marked a significant stage for graphic art, which is an artistic expression, executed on a flat surface and attaches importance to lines, marks, and printed letters[4]. Indeed, thanks to their previous education abroad, Arab artists familiarized themselves with techniques such as printmaking, etching, or engraving and adopted them when they came back to their home countries. In this decade, Suad Al Attar followed the program of the Baghdad Group for Modern Art and observed the popular environment, which was her main topic. She liked to depict scenes of the daily life of people in Baghdad, markets, and cityscapes. However, she was particularly interested in the representation of the woman and their social issues[5]. Thus, the feminine figure would become recurrent in her oeuvre like in the artwork Untitled (1965), part of the Dalloul Art Foundation. Applying earthy tones of color and a two-dimensional perspective, Al Attar illustrated a veiled woman, standing in what could be a house, and looking at the ground. The artist didn’t want to simply illustrate women but she emphasized conveying their emotions, strength and sorrows. Integrating small decorative motifs, Al Attar immersed the viewer into a spiritual universe, giving these unknown characters a sacred dimension. Here, the position of the woman and the gentleness of her face, recall the canons of iconographic tradition. She even resembles a small statue put in the hollow of a wall that forms the canvas.

In the 1970s, the art of Suad Al Attar reached a stylistic maturity, demonstrated by an innovative and free practice. Using the skills that she acquired from before, she employed mixed media and executed some etching or collages such as in Rêverie au clair de Lune in 1972 (also part of DAF’s collection). In this piece, she showed a new approach of the subject, moving from the life in Baghdad towards a more symbolic painting by integrating imaginary elements, likes the birds in the nest, or the little fairy flying around. After she moved to London, Al Attar felt a deep longing for her homeland and thought that being abroad granted her freedom that was not quite available to her in Iraq; notably, during the regime of Saddam Hussein (1937-2006)[6]. Al-Attar found in painting, a way to express her love and yearning for her country. She celebrated the richness of its history, Mesopotamian mythology with winged creatures, and poetry.

Al Attar came up with a personalized set of symbols that represent various elements of Iraq folkloric visual culture such as the peacock, the rooster, or a horseman. The Iraqi poet and author Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1920-1994) said about this period:  ‘Where the decisive line loses its clarity, the dreams of innocence mingle with the dreams of experience, paradise and desire are interchanged and green trees full of sparrows turn into flames of fire’[7]. In the two etchings called Paradise in Green (1983) and Paradise in Green 2 (n.d.) – both present at DAF –, she celebrated a rich flora in her paintings, through a naïve style. She fully optimized the space of the compositions by superposing the birds, the plants, the flowers, and the trees that she precisely drew. These elements later play a meaningful role in her iconography, and more precisely, her most important element is the date palm. Through this repeated motif, she metaphorically reconnected to the land of Iraq: the etymology of the ‘Tigris’ river stems from a Mesopotamian name for the date palm[8]. Reported to be the oldest cultivated tree, it is associated with the construction of civilizations, both ancient and pre-Islamic. Using the color gold, Suad Al Attar created a dreamlike world like a reference to the paradise lost, namely the Garden of Eden, since the forest represents an image of untouched nature.

The early 1990s were a hard and tragic time for Al Attar who lost her father in 1991, shortly after the Gulf War, and her sister Leila who passed away from an American airstrike on Baghdad in 1993. After she stopped painting for a time, she executed some works with darker scenes in which she would combine painting and Arabic script by adding excerpts of poems.  The canvas turned out to be a sort of diary, a creative outlet where she expressed her fear for her family remaining in Iraq.

Suad Al Attar lives and works in London.

[1] “Biography.” Attar, January 29, 2019. https://suadalattar.com/biography/.

[2] Nusair, Isis. "The Cultural Costs of the 2003 US-Led Invasion of Iraq: A Conversation with Art Historian Nada Shabout." Feminist Studies 39, no. 1 (2013): 119-48. Accessed May 4, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23719300. [P.145]

[3] Ibrahim Jabra, Jabra. “The Changing Forest of Suad Al-Attar.” in Gilgamesh, A Journal of Modern Iraqi Arts, 1990. [P.7]

[4] Muzaffar, May. ‘In Focus: Graphic Art in the Arab World’ in Lenssen, Anneka, A. Rogers, Sarah, and Shabout, Nada. Modern Art in the Arab World, Primary Documents. New York, USA: The Museum of Modern Art, 2018. [P.372]

[5] Salim, Nizar. Art Contemporain En Irak - Livre I, Peinture. Lausanne, Switzerland: Sartec, 1977. [P.82]

[6] “Suad ALATTAR: Ibrahimi Collection.” Suad ALATTAR | Ibrahimi Collection. Accessed May 6, 2020. http://ibrahimicollection.com/node/110.

[7] Jabra, Ibrahim Jabra in his article ‘The Return from the Unknown Realm’ in Al-Muthaqqaf al-‘Arabi, no.4 (1971), quoted in Salim, Nizar. Art Contemporain En Irak - Livre I, Peinture. Lausanne, Switzerland: Sartec, 1977. [P-82].

[8] ‘July 14 Epic’ in New Iraq, no.10, Bagdad, October 1961.

Sources

Al Arabiya English. “Date Palm, Arab Region Symbol of Prosperity, Listed by UNESCO.” Al Arabiya English. Al Arabiya English, December 11, 2019. https://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/art-and-culture/2019/12/12/Date-palm-Arab-region-symbol-of-prosperity-listed-by-UNESCO-.

Collier, Caroline. Suad Al-Attar: Recent Paintings. London, UK: Graffiti Gallery, 1983.

Ibrahim Jabra, Jabra. “The Changing Forest of Suad Al-Attar.” in Gilgamesh, A Journal of Modern Iraqi Arts, 1990.

‘July 14 Epic’ in New Iraq, no.10, Bagdad, October 1961.

Lenssen, Anneka, A. Rogers, Sarah, and Shabout, Nada. Modern Art in the Arab World, Primary Documents. New York, USA: The Museum of Modern Art, 2018.

Nusair, Isis. "The Cultural Costs of the 2003 US-Led Invasion of Iraq: A Conversation with Art Historian Nada Shabout." Feminist Studies 39, no. 1 (2013): 119-48. Accessed May 4, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23719300.

Salim, Nizar. Art Contemporain En Irak - Livre I, Peinture. Lausanne, Switzerland: Sartec, 1977.

Suad ALATTAR | Ibrahimi Collection. Accessed May 6, 2020. http://ibrahimicollection.com/node/110.

Suadalattar. “Suad Al.” Attar, January 29, 2019. https://suadalattar.com/.

Qabbani, Nizar, Stewart, Angus, and Bushrui Suheil. Sʻuād Al-Aṭṭār. London, UK: Al-Madad Foundation, 2004.

Youssif, Farouq. “Suad Al-Attar's Secret Garden.” in Gilgamesh, A Journal of Modern Iraqi Arts, 1990.

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CV

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2011

Tree of Life – Visions from Gardens of Eden, Nour Festival of Arts, Leighton House Museum, London, UK

2002

Chelsea Art Club, London, UK

2000

Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE

1999

Albemarle Gallery, London, UK

1997

Leighton House Museum, London, UK

1993

Leighton House Museum, London, UK

1992

The artist’s studio, London, UK

1989 

The artist’s studio, London, UK

1988

The artist’s studio, London, UK

1986

The National Museum of Modern Art, Kuwait

1985

Alif Gallery, Washington D.C, US

1983

Suad al-Attar: Recent Paintings, Graffiti Gallery, London, UK

1981

Suad al-Attar: Etchings and Lithographs, Annexe Gallery, London, UK

1974

Gallery Centre d’Accueil du Proche Orient, Paris, France

1973

The National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq

1972

Gallery One, Beirut, Lebanon

1968

Gallery One, Beirut, Lebanon

1965

Baghdad, Iraq

1957

Baghdad High School, Baghdad, Iraq

Selected Group Exhibitions

2018

A Century in Flux, Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah, UAE

2016

The Short Century, Sharjah Museum, Sharjah, UAE

2014

Sky Over The East, Emirates Palace, UAE

2006

Homage to My Land & Dreaming of a Peaceful World, Green Art Gallery, UAE
Tears of the Ancient City, Leighton House Museum, London, UK

2003

Spoleto Art Festival, Italy
Palace Wharf Group Show, London, UK
UNESCO Centre, Jordan National Gallery Collection, Paris, France
The Arabian Canvas, Dubai, UAE

2002

44th International Art Festival of Souza, Tunisia
Global Collection of Art, Ohio, US
24th International Cultural Asilah Festival, Asilah, Morocco

2001

Women of the World, University of Maryland, Washington DC, US
1st International Middle Eastern Paintings, Sotheby’s, London, UK

2000

Women of the World, New York, US
Writing Arabic, British Museum, London, UK
Flint Institute of Art, Michigan, US    

1999

Riverside Studios, London, UK

1998

Kelling Festival, Norfolk, UK
230th Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Art, London, UK

1997

ART 97, Red Dot Gallery, London, UK

1995

Forces of Change, Atlanta, Georgia, and Los Angeles, US
1st International Art Biennial of Malta, Malta
Treg Aquarelle, Salon International de la Peinture à l'Eau, Trégastel, France

1993

 225th Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK

1992

1st International Art Festival, Al-Mahris, Tunisia

1991

223rd Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK

1989

Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Barbican Centre, London, UK

1987

Mall Galleries, London, UK

1986

Arab World Institute Exhibition, Grand Palais, Paris, France

1985

Homage to Picasso & Miro International Art Exhibition, Madrid, Spain
International Biennial of Graphic Arts, Taiwan
International Print Biennial, Krakow, Poland
II Cabo Frio International Print Biennial Exhibition, Brazil

1984

51st Exhibition of the National Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Printmakers, Mall Galleries, London, UK
1st International Biennial Exhibition, Cairo, Egypt
International Print Biennial, Miami, Florida, US
Contemporary Arab Artists, Tunisia

1982

Museum of Modern Art, Amman, Jordan
6th Norwegian International Print Exhibition, Fredrikstad, Norway
Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Ottawa, Canada

1981

Asilah Art and Culture Festival, Asilah, Morocco

1980

Third World Biennial of Graphic Art, London, UK; Baghdad, Iraq
Exhibition of Women Artists, Rome, Italy

1978

Contemporary Art Exhibition, New York, US
The Stowells Trophy Competition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK

1976

The International Cagne-Sur-Mer Exhibition, France

1975

Contemporary Arab Art Exhibition, Algeria

1974

Triennial of International Art, New Delhi, India

Awards and Honors

1999   

Award of Excellence, CIB Award, Paintings for the Holland Park 

1998

Opera House

1998  

Honorary Award, Sharjah Ladies Club, UAE

1995   

Award of Distinction, 1st International Biennial of Malta, Malta

1993  

Featured on the UNICEF New Year Card

1985   

Honorary Award, II Cabo Frio International Print Biennial Exhibition, Brazil

1984  

Gold Medal and 1st Prize, International Biennial, Cairo, Egypt
Miro Award (1st Prize), Homage to Picasso & Miro Exhibition, Madrid, Spain

1978   

Honorable Mention, Third World Biennial of Graphic Art, London, UK

1975   

Featured on the UNICEF New Year Card

1973   

Honorable Mention, Interpress Agency International Contest, Poland

Collections

The British Museum, London, UK
Gulbenkian Collection, Barcelona, Spain
Gandhi Private Collection
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
Museum of Modern Art, Damascus, Syria
Asilah Museum of Art, Morocco
Museum of Modern Art, Kuwait
Conference Center, Qatar
National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
Beit Al Quran Collection, Bahrain
Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar
Ibrahimi Collection, Jordan
Musée du Montparnasse, Paris, France
Leighton House Museum, London, UK

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Documents

Iraq’s Past Speaks to the Present
The British Museum, English/Arabic

Exhibition Catalog

The Iraq’s Past Speaks to the Present: Contemporary Art from Iraq and Syria at the British Museum
Gemma Tully
contemporarypractices, English

Exhibition Review

Suad Al Attar
Graffiti Gallery, English/Arabic

Exhibition Catalog

سعاد العطار تتحدث عن فنها
ماجدة السامرائي
العاملون في النفط, Arabic, 1967
The Characteristics of Magical Realism in the Work of the Iraq Artst Suad Alttar and the Egyp Tian Artist Zainab AL-Sijini سمات الواقعية السحرية في اعمال الفنانة العراقية سعاد العطار والفنانة المصرية زينب السجيني
Maha Saleem
Journal of University of Babylon for Humanities, Vol.(27), No.(2), English/Arabic, 2019

Essay

سعاد العطار
جبرا إبراهيم جبرا
Al-Amaloun fil-Naft العاملون في النفط, Arabic, 1972

Article

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Press

سعاد العطار عراقية تنسج الحلم الأسطوري
سعد القصاب
almadasupplements.com, Arabic, 2017
92 Suad Al Attar
arabianbusiness.com, English
Forces of Change: Artists of the Arab World
2013
التشكيلية العراقية سعـاد العطار.. رائحة الأساطير الحالمة غـازي انـعـيـم
ناقد تشكيلي اردني
adserver.addustour.com, Arabic, 2007
سعاد العطار : الغابة المتحوّلة *
aljsad.org, Arabic, 2003
كلكامش .. عدد جديد
azzaman.com, Arabic, 2019
سيبقى طيف بغداد يحرك الوجدان والريشة والألوان
startimes.com, Arabic, 2003
!سعاد العطار صارت رسامة وهي في السادسة . فنانة عربية حالمة "تصنع" السلام باللون والريشة
almadasupplements.com, Arabic, 2019
رحلة الى داخل سعاد العطار .. حزن الغربة يولد فنا
لولوة الحمود
archive.aawsat.com, Arabic, 2003
سعاد العطار.. علامة فارقة في المشهد التشكيلي العربي
إسماعيل الرفاعي
albayan.ae, Arabic, 2007
بعد التعتيم الإعلامي..بيت (المدى) يحتفي بـ""فراشة"" التشكيل العراقي سعاد العطار
محمد الكروي
asrar7days.com, Arabic, 2019
سعاد العطار وليلى العطار.. من اقطاب الفن
د. كاظم شمھود
almothaqaf.com, Arabic, 2018
سعاد العطار عراقية تنسج الحلم الأسطوري
سعد القصاب
alarab.co.uk, Arabic, 2016
الفنانة التشكيلية سعاد العطار و(شجرة الحياة) العراقية
artsgulf.com, Arabic, 2012
الكتابة مشروعها المقبل . الرسامة سعاد العطار ترثي بغداد بألوان نارية
غالية قباني
sauress.com, Arabic, 2010
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Videos

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Exhibitions

SUAD AL ATTAR Artwork