Behind the scenes


Fantasy series,

Ink and colour pencils on paper 21.0 × 30.0 cm

This series of works, completed in Salam Atta Sabri’s signature style, continues to explore landscapes and surroundings that inspire him. Often abstracted yet incorporating figurative elements such as faces and palms, Atta Sabri depicts fantastical scenes brimming with vibrant colours. Each piece showcases a varying density of ink lines and shapes, maintaining a consistent grid-like structure. Atta Sabri has established a signature geometric style featuring circles, semicircles, squares, rectangles, triangles, lines and undulating forms. The influence of Paul Klee, an artist introduced to Salam by his father, is also evident.

Two distinctive symbols that frequently appear in Atta Sabri’s art are big eyes and bricks. The use of big eyes can be traced back to Somalian dolls and figurines, as well as the Baghdad Museum of Antiques, where these features are prominent. Meanwhile, the symbol of bricks holds historical significance, dating back to the ancient Mesopotamian civilization. In Mesopotamia, bricks made from clay were a cornerstone of architectural development, and they symbolise both continuity and change in Sabri’s art.

Salam Atta Sabri

About the Artist

Salam Atta Sabri (b. 1953, Baghdad) is an artist who was based in the USA and Jordan for sixteen years, and in 2005 returned to his homeland, Iraq. His practice, which is primarily fantastical, colourful scenes executed in ink and colour pencils on paper, can be understood as visual diaries of his personal experiences and surroundings. Letters from Baghdad (2005-15) was first shown at the Iraq Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale. Sabri’s collaboration with the Ruya Foundation led to commissions such as Date Palm Killing Fields series (2016), highlighting the destruction of Iraq’s date palm orchards. Sabri’s art intricately weaves together Iraq’s modern art, ancient history, and his own narrative, addressing the nation’s conflicts and transformations.

Salam Atta Sabri was one of the first artists commissioned for ITERARTE’s variations project. He holds a BFA in ceramics from California State University. His work is featured in the SMAK permanent collection as well as several private collections in the Middle East.

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Other Works by Salam Atta Sabri