Sara Shamma is one of Syria's most celebrated contemporary artists, whose works can be found in both public and private collections around the globe. Shamma, born in Damascus, Syria (1975) to a Syrian father and Lebanese mother, moved to London in 2016, where she currently lives and works, under the auspices of an Exceptional Talent Visa.
She has been the recipient of various international art awards and was a prize winner in the 2004 BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London; she became the United Nations World Food Programme’s 'Celebrity Partner' in 2010.
During 2019, Shamma is undertaking a residency at King’s College London where she is working within the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience to create a new visual vocabulary related to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. The project will culminate in a major exhibition at Bush House on The Strand, London during Frieze in October 2019 and will be curated by Kathleen Soriano.
Shamma has a long-standing interest in the psychology associated with the suffering of individuals, her practice focuses on death and humanity expressed mainly through self-portraits and children painted in a life-like visceral way. Her works can be divided into series that reflect often prolonged periods of research, sometimes extending over years. Shamma believes that death gives meaning to life, and rather than steering away from a subject that is increasingly taboo in contemporary culture, she considers the impact of grief and deep internal emotions.
The Syrian conflict has a distinct impact on the way that Shamma portrays her subjects. Working mainly from life and photographs, the artist uses oils to create a hyper realistic scene, using transparency lines and motion to portray a distant and deep void.
Art Awards include first prize in Latakia Biennial, Syria (2001), 4th BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London (2004), 1st The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, The South Australian Museum (2008), and a painting prize at the Florence Biennial (2013).