Kamala Ibrahim Ishag Women in Crystal Cubes

Image: Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Women in Cubes, 2015. Oil on canvas, 155 x 115 cm. From the collection of Samia Omer Osman. Courtesy of the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Please note: This exhibition is currently closed. 

The Prince Claus Fund welcomes you to the solo exhibition Women in Crystal Cubes by one of the leading influential artists and pioneering modernist painters in Sudan: Kamala Ibrahim Ishag. Ishag was a foundational figure in the Sudanese modernist movement, known as the Khartoum school, and later established the Crystalist Group, a conceptual art group that challenged traditional practices in Sudanese art. Women in Crystal Cubes selectively traces Ishag’s half-century journey as an artist. The exhibition at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery is Ishag’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands. On 4 December she received the 2019 Principal Prince Claus Award. 

Opening times: 10.00-17.00 Monday through Friday 1 November 2019 through 1 May 2020.

Location: Prince Claus Fund Gallery, 603 Herengracht, Amsterdam

Entrance to the exhibition is free 

Time Out 1953 Oil on canvas 92 x 64cm Courtesy of gb agency Paris
Untitled 1950s Oil on canvas 146 x 114 cm Courtesy of gb agency Paris

This exhibition features a variety of paintings including early works, beginning with her graduation from the College of Fine & Applied Art, Khartoum in 1963, and subsequent studies at the Royal College of Art between 1964 and 1966, and spanning her return to Sudan and three-decade’s tenure as a professor in the painting department at the Khartoum’s College of Fine & Applied Art in the 1970s through the early 1990s. The exhibition also examines her practice during subsequent years in London and Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, until her return to Sudan in the early 2000s. 

"Kamala’s studies at the Royal College were formative to her career. Her early interest in the work of the English painter and writer William Blake, in particular his exploration of spirituality and incarnation through the sublime power of poetry resonated with her own contemplation of spirit possession practices by Sudanese women known as Zar. The unlikely convergence would lead to the development of central themes and styles in her work that run through her oeuvre. Such influences can be seen in the distorted faces and figures of women in her paintings, which are mostly rendered in dark monochromic tones of brown. Even when brighter colours are used in her work, Kamala rigorously and deliberately mutes the palette, as in her series inspired by the brooding, figurative paintings of Francis Bacon. Kamala’s career cannot be imprisoned in such style, as she moved on to explore other themes that have come to define the multiplicity of her oeuvre of the plants world, which has become a rich source for new forms and compositions witnessed in her most recent paintings. In addition, Kamala has collaborated with Sudanese poets, writers and scholars by gracing their publications with cover designs and illustrations, as displayed in this exhibitions."- Dr. Salah M. Hassan

Women in Crystal Cubes is co-curated by Dr. Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture and Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University (USA), and Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, Director and President of Sharjah Art Foundation (UAE), and Women in Crystal Cubes was originally shown at the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2016. 

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag: Women in Crystal Cubes

Opening in the presence of the curators

Date & Time: 17:30 – 20:30 Thursday 31 October 2019 

Location: Prince Claus Fund Gallery, 603 Herengracht, Amsterdam

Regular Exhibition Dates & Times:

Monday through Friday 10:00 – 17:00  

1 November 2019 through 1 May 2020

Special opening hours during Amsterdam Art Weekend:

Friday 22 November 10:00-20:00 Saturday 23 November 12:00-18:00 Sunday 24 November 12:00-18:00

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag web

About Kamala Ibrahim Ishag: Kamala Ibrahim Ishag (1939 Omdurman, Sudan) was among the first women artists to graduate from the College of Fine Arts in Khartoum in 1963. She went on to do postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Fine Art, London (1964-1966). While still a student in the early 1960s, she was briefly associated with the Khartoum School (with, among others, Ibrahim El-Salahi, 2003 Prince Claus Laureate.) The Khartoum school was an art movement that forged a modern identity for the newly independent nation by drawing on both its Arab and African traditions.

Later on, Ishag broke away from the movement due to its emphasis on tradition and its male-dominant outlook, and, together with a number of her students, established what came to be known as the Crystalist Group. The group issued the Crystalists Manifesto, which characterised the world as infinite and unbounded, like the transparencies and reflections of a multi-faceted crystal. In her own work, Ishag has concentrated on the intangible and spiritual aspects of women’s experience. She conducted field research and produced paintings and academic papers about Zar, a traditional Sudanese women’s spiritual ceremony that entails spirit possession and trance-like performance. The works and writing of William Blake and Francis Bacon were a large influence in Ishag’s portraits of distorted women figures.

Ishag will receive the Principal Prince Claus Award on 4 December 2019 in Amsterdam. The Prince Claus Awards Committee writes in its report that Ishag is honoured “for her original, vibrant and haunting artworks…her revolutionary intellectual challenge to the established artistic paradigm…her support and empowerment of women, leading the expansion of women’s roles…her immense contribution to Sudanese artistic education…[and] for her integrity and ongoing dedication to innovative aesthetic thought…despite the repressive context and succession of crises in Sudan from the 1960s onward.” 

About the curators: Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi is President and founding Director of Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF). She received her BFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in London (2002) has a diploma in painting from the Royal Academy of Arts in London (2005) and an MA in curating contemporary art from the Royal College of Art in London (2008). She is a practicing artist and curator, who established Sharjah Art Foundation in 2009 as a catalyst and advocate for the regional and international role of art in Sharjah, UAE. During its 10 year history, Al Qasimi has expanded the scope of Sharjah Foundation to include major exhibitions that have toured internationally, artist and curator residencies in visual art, film and music, commissions and production grants for emerging artists, and a wide range of educational programming in Sharjah for children and adults. In 2003, Al Qasimi co-curated Sharjah Biennial 6, and has since continued as Biennial Director. Al Qasimi serves on numerous boards internationally and currently serves as a member of the Prince Claus Awards Committee.

Dr. Salah M. Hassan is an art historian, art critic and curator. He is the Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture in the Africana Studies and Research Center and the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University. He is also Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities (ICM) at Cornell University. He currently serves as Director of The Africa Institute, a newly established research and a think tank with a postgraduate   studies program in African and African Diaspora studies based in Sharjah, UAE. He has authored, edited and co-edited a number of books including Ibrahim El Salahi; A Visionary Modernist (2013), and articles in several journals and other publications. He is founding editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (Duke University Press). He also serves as a member of the editorial advisory board of Atlantica and the Journal of Curatorial Studies. Hassan has been the recipient of numerous grants from Sharjah Art Foundation, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and Prince Claus Fund, among others. He has curated or co-curated numerous international exhibitions, including Three Crossings: Ibrahim El Salahi, Stanley Brouwn, David Hammons organised by the Prince Claus Fund and held in three venues in Amsterdam in 2017-2018.

About the Prince Claus Fund: The Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development supports, connects and celebrates artists and cultural practitioners where cultural expression is under pressure. The Fund stands firm with those who create, who believe in the transformative power of culture, who advance new ideas and develop new perspectives.

Acknowledgements: The Prince Claus Fund is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Postcode Lottery and private companies and individuals.  The majority of works featured in this exhibition were generously provided on loan from the Sharjah Art Foundation’s collection.

The Prince Claus Fund would like to thank the following contributors for helping make this exhibition possible: the Sharjah Art Foundation, Lina Haggar and the Haggar Foundation, DaL Group Company Ltd-Sudan, the Barjeel Foundation, the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Elamin Osman, Issam Abdel Hafeiz, Samia Omar Osman, Osama Daoud Abdellatif, the Magdoub Rabbah Family, Salah Elmur, Fathi Osman, Amira Swar El Dahab, Nada Osman, Amir Daoud Abdellatif and Reem El Roubi.

Image credits in order:

  1. Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Women in Cubes, 2015. Oil on canvas, 155 x 115 cm. From the collection of Samia Omer Osman. Courtesy of the Sharjah Art Foundation.
  2. Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Four Faces of Eve, 2016, 104.5 x 104.5, Oil on canvas, Sharjah Art foundation Collection
  3. Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Two Women (Eve and Eve), 2016, 190 x 205 cm, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist
  4. Portrait Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Khartoum 2019. Photo credit: Mohamed Noureldin

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