Sara Shamma captures the Attention of International Press

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6/11/2019 Syrian artist’s self-portrait short listed for prestigious UK award Syrian artist’s self-portrait short listed for prestigious UK award Gulf Today · 10 Jun 2019 SHARJAH: Syrian artist Sara Shamma, renowned for her self-portraits, was short listed this year for the Ruth Borchard Self-portrait prize. The Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Prize is a biennial award that […]

6/11/2019 Syrian artist’s self-portrait short listed for prestigious UK award

Syrian artist’s self-portrait short listed for prestigious UK award

Gulf Today · 10 Jun 2019

SHARJAH: Syrian artist Sara Shamma, renowned for her self-portraits, was short listed this year for the Ruth Borchard Self-portrait prize.

The Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Prize is a biennial award that celebrates contemporary British and Irish self-portraiture. British artist David Dawson won the prize.
The short listed paintings currently form a curated, four-month exhibition at Piano Nobile Kings Place until Oct. 2019 with the opportunity to be purchased by the Ruth Borchard Next Generation Collection – the UK’S only collection of self-portraits. The display includes work by leading British artists such as Eileen Cooper, Julian Opie and Jonathan Yeo.

The Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Collection was the life-long project of Ruth Borchard (1910-2000), an extraordinary patron of artists. Between 1958 and 1971, she collected one hundred self-portraits by British and British-based artists.

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6/11/2019 Syrian artist’s self-portrait short listed for prestigious UK award

They were mostly oil paintings, watercolours and gouaches, with a couple of lithographic prints, and one sculpted relief. Dating between 1921 and 1971, the vast majority were as- sembled between 1958 and 1966.
The Next Generation Collection extends Borchard’s project into the twenty-rst century. It is an unrivalled body of work that supports practicing British artists and delineates trends in the contemporary art scene, demonstrating the diversity of contemporary British society.

The ruth borchard self-portrait prize is “intended to reect and celebrate the traditions which inform the Borchard Collection by encouraging the development of self-portraiture in British art into the twenty-rst century”.
The prize oers a unique opportunity for both established and emerging artists to compete for the £10,000 award. For 2019, the winner was selected by a prestigious panel of judges including Sean Rainbird (Director of the National Gallery of Ireland), Professor Deborah Swallow (Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art), Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Hillier (Head of the RAF), Martin Gayford (art critic and writer), Marc Steene (Director of Outside In) and 2017 prize winner, Benjamin Ogbebor.

All artists working, living or studying in the UK and Ireland are eligible to enter. Works must be a self-portrait of the artist. This is the only condition for entering the prize and all variations – gurative or abstract, alone or in a group, from life or from memory – are ac- cepted. There are no restrictions of size of work.
To commemorate the centenary of Ruth Borchard’s birth, the inaugural Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Prize was held in 2011 at Piano Nobile Kings Place.
The biennial prize aims to enable an interpretation and exploration of the self-portraiture genre. Shown alone or within a group, contextualised, abstracted, trailing narrative or de- ned by the surface of the image, like all self-portraits, new additions to the genre will ex- plore the idea of visual identity, simultaneously revealing and designing the self-presen- tation of the artist.
Previous winners of the Competition include Celia Paul (2011), Thomas Newbolt (2013) and Shanti Panchal (2015). Their self-portraits, alongside paintings by Maggi Hambling CBE, Anthony Eyton RA, John Keane and many other respected British artists, have been pur- chased for the Next Generation Collection.
Shamma’s works can be found in both public and private collections around the globe. Born in Damascus, Syria (1975) to a Syrian father and Lebanese mother, she graduated from the Painting Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Damascus, in 1998. She moved to London in 2016 under the auspices of an Exceptional Talent Visa where she currently lives and works.
Her practice focuses on death and humanity, expressed mainly through self-portraits and children painted in a life-like visceral way. She believes that death gives meaning to life and rather than steering away from a subject that is increasingly taboo in contemporary culture, she reects on the impact of grief and deep internal emotions.
The Syrian conict has had an impact on the way she portrays her subjects. Working mainly from life and photographs, she uses oils to create hyper realistic scenes of war and its consequences.

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6/11/2019 Syrian artist’s self-portrait short listed for prestigious UK award

She was selected as one of the prize winners for the 2004 BP Portrait Award and was sub- sequently invited to participate in a number of solo and group exhibitions around the world, including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Annual Exhibition at the Mall Gal- leries in 2013. Shamma’s subject mater of choice is the human form.

She has been supporting the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) since 2010, during which time she produced Fighting Hunger, which was sold by Christie’s Dubai in 2012 with all proceeds going to the WFP.
But why did Borchard focus on self-portraits? In an unpublished essay (c. 1969), she asked this question herself: “Why did I begin collecting self-portraits?”

She evoked the revelatory moment when the idea of collecting self-portraits was con- ceived: “In literature, my taste ran to introspective books: diaries, autobiographies, leters. Over the years I oten felt tempted to collect rst editions of these moderns. Then one day… mounting up the stairs in our house, I was struck by the idea that introspection in painting meant: self-portraits”.
Among young artists spoted by Ruth in their student days were Mario Dubsky, Peter Phillips and Patrick Procktor, along with Anthony Eyton, Anthony Green, Ken Howard, David Tindle and others relatively early in their careers.
As her collection and her condence, grew she approached artists at the height of their ca- reers. Some declined to participate but many, such as Michael Ayrton, Roger Hilton, Feliks Topolski and Keith Vaughan, co-operated.

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