The Fires of Kuwait

The Fires of Kuwait, 1991
From the series A series of events 1991
Oil on acetate
Lent by the artist
(Photo: Harry Foster  © Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation)

" It was a winter evening and we were watching television. The program was interrupted by a news bulletin. The Gulf War had started. I had lived in Saudi Arabia for nine years, and it was a shock to see the bombs falling. Wars had become like video games. They even looked pretty and very artistic on TV ...

We were watching a video game, but with real people being hurt. That's when I started A series of events 1991. "

Excerpt from the artist's statement

Born in Cairo in 1944 to parents of Lebanese origin, Hannah Alpha has lived in Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, all stages of a long journey that eventually led her to Canada. She has lived in Montreal since 1981.

Hannah Alpha (centre) with her spouse Richard Alpha and her daughter Pascale Alpha
Hannah Alpha (centre) with her spouse Richard Alpha
and her daughter Pascale Alpha
, Pierrefonds, Quebec, 1999
Camille Zakharia
Iris digital prints
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization

This painter began her training at the Heliopolis School of Art in Egypt and took courses at Beirut's American University, as well as at McGill University upon her arrival in Montreal. She has also led drawing and painting workshops in Lebanon and in Montreal (Saidye Bronfman Centre). It was in Saudi Arabia that she began to distance herself from realistic portrayal in order to involve herself in abstract art and the expression of pure emotion.

Preoccupied, above all, with the problematics of surface and depth, she also integrates writings in different languages, and even Pharaonic hieroglyphs, into her art. Painting has been for her a means to exorcise pain, as her series on Lebanon and on the Gulf War clearly depict: When I arrived here, I painted a series called "The Sinking Ship," and it was really Lebanon that was going under . . . harsh colours and water. Since that time, her approach to art has become more personal and more serene: As one matures, one returns to oneself.

Hannah Alpha has several solo exhibitions to her credit, in Saudi Arabia and in Canada, and has participated in numerous group exhibitions. Her works are also included in various public and private collections.