From 7 October until 29 January 2023, the exhibition takes in the full breadth of Ishag's work. Renowned as a groundbreaking painter and leader of the conceptual Crystalist group during the '70s and '80s, this show is a unique opportunity to take in stunning pieces of her work and new paintings created in her Khartoum studio that have never been publically displayed.
Visitors can look forward to large-scale canvases, including Blues for the Martyrs, in which faces are captured in floating balls connected by seaweed-like plant forms in a watery blue environment. Then there's her works on paper, calabashes, screens and leather drums, plus a selection of Ishag's graphic design work and personal archive material, which gives context to her life as a prolific artist in Sudan before her self-exile to London and Muscat.
"It is very special for me to have this exhibition at Serpentine as I studied close to Hyde Park at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s, and I have spent time living in London," says Kamala Ibrahim Ishag.
"I have completed new paintings for this exhibition which will be shown alongside works from my career. These are all connected by images of humans and plants — the vital elements that constitute all life. It is wonderful to be working with Serpentine, Sharjah Art Foundation and The Africa Institute on this project."
Primarily concerned with the cyclical flow of life and communal female experiences, Ishag's work includes a homage to the hundreds of victims of the Khartoum Massacre and a figurative map of her childhood neighbourhood in Bait Al-Mal. She also draws inspiration from healing Zar ceremonies and the visionary work of William Blake, particularly his exploration of spirituality and incarnation.
Bettina Korek, Serpentine CEO, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine artistic director, say: "We are thrilled to partner with Sharjah Art Foundation and The Africa Institute to bring the work of this pioneering artist to London. Kamala's thinking of not "imprisoning" the artist within one idea is central to the work we are doing at Serpentine. We believe artists are key to many disciplines and areas of society, never restricted within boundaries.
"The exhibition follows an ongoing series of recent surveys exploring the breadth and depth of important and prolific artists Luchita Hurtado, Faith Ringgold, Hervé Télémaque and James Barnor. It is part of an ongoing strand of programming at Serpentine that aims to present more diverse histories by presenting solo shows that expand audiences' experience and knowledge of artists working globally. Kamala's seven decades of art making leads the way with this idea."
Salah M. Hassan, Director at The Africa Institute, adds: "I am delighted to work with Serpentine and Sharjah Art Foundation to bring Kamala Ishag's groundbreaking practice to London. Kamala challenged tradition and forged a new style, paving the way for many women, men, and younger generations whom she mentored over the years, including the Crystalists group.
"Through this exhibition, we look forward to expanding the understanding of African and African diaspora modernist and contemporary art practices by showcasing her influence in Sudanese art and her reputation as one of the most important painters in African and global modern art."
For more information on the exhibition and links on where to book your tickets, visit serpentinegalleries.org.