Shadow, 1995
Mixed media on wood
Lent by the artist
(Photo: Harry Foster  © Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation)

" I have begun to follow the memories that come to mind. I would like to retain them so that I can feel better. [...]

Since these are distant memories, I want to keep them enclosed within a square space. In order to preserve them."

Extracts from an interview with the artist

Born in 1949 in Iraq, Ishrak Sahar left Baghdad in 1982. She lived for four years in Kuwait, where she taught visual arts, then for two years in Madrid, Spain, where she devoted herself to painting. The recipient of a certificate in fine arts (1970) and a Bachelor's degree in visual arts (1976) from the University of Baghdad, she also received a diploma in textile design from the E. Harlacher Institute of Zurich (1976), which she earned during a two-year study period in Switzerland. She settled in Toronto in 1988.

Ishrak Sahar
Ishrak Sahar, North York, Ontario, 1999
Camille Zakharia
Iris digital prints
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization

The evolution of Sahar's work is characterized by two approaches. Lacking the necessary means and floor space for easel painting, the artist first worked in black and white, using inks. The frames that she makes for her paintings also date from this time. Her current approach, however, has proven itself to be more liberating in the face of the difficulties she has encountered as an immigrant. She finds, for example, that using strongly textured colours and a wooden support enhances her ability to evoke her country and childhood. To better retain her fading memories, she paints them in one or more squares that are placed at the core of her paintings.

Djanadjil (Children's bangle)
Djanadjil, 1997
(children's bangle)
Mixed media on wood
Lent by the artist
(Photo: Harry Foster  © Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation)

She also uses geometric patterns, which belong to the Arab pictorial tradition, to frame and reframe the subjects she puts on canvas, giving them a new dimension: With this texture, with these colours, I have obtained a depth that surpasses what I want to express. Her use of mixed media and her choice of original formats, such as the square motif within a square frame, also contribute to this impression of depth.

Ishrak Sahar has exhibited her work in many galleries and public institutions in Canada, Spain and Iraq. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has acquired some of her works.