Displacement

Mohammed Sami (1984 - )

Acrylic on linen

2017

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Image of Displacement
  • About the work
    At first sight, this painting appears to be a work of deadpan humour, showing a Swedish plug thrown on the ground beside a British power socket. Using this wry decoy, the artist means to engage viewers to encourage broader reflections on trauma, particularly, ‘displacement, not fitting, and detachment from the perspective of a post-refugee artist.’
    Originally from Baghdad, Mohammed Sami lived through seven wars in his native Iraq, before seeking asylum in Sweden in 2007. His paintings are imbued with the lived experience of post-traumatic stress disorder, and are a way for him to work through his suffering. He explains:As an Iraqi artist, people expect to see in my works explicit images of trauma, violence and death. While my paintings do not deal with these subjects directly, they are implicitly there […] These autobiographical paintings record a vivid process of remembering. No memories are represented explicitly, but the condition of remembering is present. There is no intention to show evidence, or record loss or death, but there is a burden of remembering.
    Since leaving his homeland more than a decade ago, Sami has continued to witness distressing events from afar. His paintings seek to evoke this sense of loss and guilt, and communicate something beyond language, relatable across time and people’s different experiences.
  • About the artist
    Born in Baghdad, Mohammed Sami lives and works between London and Norrköping, Sweden. Having grown up in an artistic family, he achieved early recognition as the recipient of several prizes including, aged 14, representing Iraq and winning in a competition for the best young painter in the Middle East, hosted in Egypt. Sami studied drawing and painting at the Institute of Fine Art, Baghdad (2005) and worked at the Ministry of Culture. His role trying to recover artworks that had been removed from Saddam Hussein’s Centre for Contemporary Art made him an enemy to insurgents and members of the former regime. Surviving several attempts on his life, losing close friends, and witnessing scenes of execution, he eventually immigrated to Sweden after a friend from the French embassy offered him safe passage out of Iraq in 2007. Later moving to Belfast, he describes how the sight of art students in the city ‘pressed the trigger on [his] early dreams in Baghdad’. He graduated from Ulster University in 2015, and completed his Masters of Fine Arts degree at Goldsmiths College, London, in 2018. He has had solo exhibitions at Al Khanji Gallery, Aleppo, Syria (2006); Dag Andersson Gallery, Norrköping, Sweden (2012); JAMM ART Gallery, Kuwait (2013) and Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London (2021). His work has also been included in group shows including ‘Towner International’, Towner Eastbourne Museum (2020) and ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’, Liverpool Biennial and South London Gallery (2018).
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  • Details
    Title
    Displacement
    Date
    2017
    Medium
    Acrylic on linen
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Bloomberg New Contemporaries, March 2019
    Provenance
    New Contemporaries; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection, 2019
    GAC number
    18790