Sara Shamma

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Sara Shamma is a UK-based Syrian artist whose figurative paintings look at themes of death and human suffering.
Sara’s emotionally crushing portraits are strongly influenced by the Syrian refugee crisis, modern slavery and human trafficking.
The award-winning artist’s work has been exhibited worldwide and used to raise awareness about the violent political climate in Syria and beyond.

UK-based Syrian artist Sara Shamma stands out for her figurative paintings which explore themes of death and humanity. Her portraits are influenced by the Syrian Civil War and refugee crisis, and the psychological impact of human trafficking.

Education and Early Career

Born in Damascus, Syria (1975), to a Syrian father and Lebanese mother, Sara graduated from the Painting Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Damascus, in 1998. In 2016, Sara was the recipient of an Exceptional Talent Visa which brought her to London where she currently resides and works.

Sara Shamma’s Style and Approach

Sara believes that death gives meaning to life. Rather than eschewing an increasingly taboo subject in contemporary culture, the artist dives in headfirst. Her fleshy and brutal portraits with aggressively layered oils tell stories of violence and anger. Limited edition digital print Self Portrait, for example, illustrates a crushing powerlessness. The artist also makes use of transparent lines and imposing spaces to trigger a deep sense of loss, isolation and fear in her drawings, as seen in Eye 11, oil and ink on canvas.

Awards and Collections

Sara has won various regional and international art awards including Fourth Prize at the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery, London (2004), First Prize in Painting at the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, Australia (2008), as well as Fourth Prize in Painting, and Special Mention, at the Florence Biennial, Italy (2013). Her provocative and incredibly current works have been toured and exhibited worldwide, many of which reside in prestigious public and private collections.