Born in Tel Naief in the north-eastern Syrian province of Hassaka, Syrian-Kurdish artist Omar Hamdi (1951–2015) was known by the name Malva. Developing his practice as a teenager, he left home at the age of 17 with his paintings. In Damascus, he worked as an art critic and graphic designer for local magazines and at the Ministry of Education. After living briefly in Beirut, he escaped the Lebanese civil war with a false passport in 1978. Finally, he settled in Vienna and received his master’s degree from the University of Stattsburger.

Hamdi’s paintings are diverse in subject matter, ranging from expressive or realistic figurative paintings rooted in Orientalism to abstracted canvases that feature elements from the natural world and geometric segments. Later in life, he found increasing commercial success by painting impressionistic-style landscapes.  

Hamdi’s work is housed in public and private international institutions, including the National Museum in Aleppo, Austrian Central Bank, Vienna and Wally Findlay Gallery, New York. He was a member of the General Federation of Austrian Artists, and his works have been exhibited in galleries across the US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East.