Painting with emotion and known for a dramatic flair with colour, figural posturing and intense rendering of light, Iraqi artist Jaber Alwan describes his process by saying: “Drama in painting is easy, but the difficulty lies in discovering the beauty in nightmares… Once I take the brush, I am not in control anymore, and the painting is in the driver’s seat.”

Born in a rural village near Babylon, Iraq, Jaber Alwan (1948) graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1970. He continued his higher education in Rome at the Accademia di belle arti, where he graduated from the Department of Sculpture in 1975, and Department of Painting in 1978. Exiled from Iraq, the artist based himself in Italy and later took a studio in Damascus. 

With a focus on the female form, the figures in Alwan’s work are often rendered in motion and have a sensual aspect to them, emphasised by their environments, backgrounds, light and shadows. Depicting the individual’s characteristics of body form or position, he usually leaves the facial features non-descript, giving the models a certain level of anonymity. 

Alwan’s work is in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; Museum of Modern Art in Gulbenkian, Lisbon; Dei Diamanti Palace, Ferrara, Italy; Museum of Modern Art, Damascus; The Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar; Academy Museum, Ravenna, Italy and the Opera House, Cairo in addition to private collections spanning as far as Russia, Japan and Chile.