Born in Omdurman, Sudan, 1930; Lives and works in Oxford, England
Pain is the worst kind of prison. Trying to ease my pain, I cut some packets into pieces. I found the quality of paper wonderful, so I started drawing. When I work, I don’t feel pain at all. — Ibrahim El-Salahi
Ibrahim El-Salahi (b. 1930) is a leading Sudanese modernist and intellectual whose paintings and drawings lyrically combine motifs from African, Arab, and Islamic art. While teaching at the College of Fine and Applied Arts in Khartoum, Sudan in the 1960s, El-Salahi played a pivotal role in establishing the Khartoum School, an influential art movement which sought to develop a new visual vocabulary that reflected the distinctive identity of the newly independent nation. The Khartoum School is characterized by a blending of indigenous and Islamic imagery, as well as a focus on abstracting traditional calligraphic forms. Later, El-Salahi helped establish the Sudanese Embassy’s first Department of Culture and then went on to work for the Ministry of Information in Qatar. He currently lives and works in Oxford, England.
In 1975, El-Salahi was held without trial for six months in Khartoum’s notorious Kober Prison, wrongfully accused of involvement in an anti-government coup. During these months, El-Salahi produced his magnum opus, Prison Notebook (1976), which included 38 masterfully rendered and emotionally fraught ink on paper drawings. The hardship endured by the artist during this period has informed much of his subsequent practice.
El-Salahi has been the subject of numerous important solo exhibitions globally, including Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Sudanese Artist in Oxford at the Ashmolean, Oxford (U.K.) in 2018; and Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist at the Tate Modern, London (U.K.) in 2013. The artist’s work is in many important public collections, including the National Gallery, Berlin (DE); the British Museum, London (U.K.); the Tate Modern, London (U.K.); the Art Institute of Chicago (IL); the Metropolitan Museum, New York (NY); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (NY); the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; and the Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi (UAE).
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