Sara Shamma is a renowned painter whose works can be found in both public and private collections around the globe. Shamma was 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.
Shamma’s practice focuses on death and humanity expressed mainly through self-portraits and children painted in a life-like visceral way. Her works can be divided into series that reflect often prolonged periods of research, sometimes extending over years. Shamma believes that death gives meaning to life, and rather than steering away from a subject that is increasingly taboo in contemporary culture, she considers the impact of grief and deep internal emotions.The Syrian conflict has a distinct impact on the way that Shamma portrays her subjects. Working mainly from life and photographs, the artist uses oils to create a hyper realistic scene, using transparency lines and motion to portray a distant and deep void.
Shamma has previously taught at the Adham Ismail Fine Arts Institute in Damascus, and alongside her practice has always had a strong dedication to sharing her knowledge with the next generation of artists. She was a member of the jury for The Annual Exhibition for Syrian Artists held by the Ministry Of Culture, in Damascus, 2006.
Shamma believes in helping others and has been supporting the United Nations World Food Programme since 2010, during which time she produced Fighting Hunger., sold by Christie’s Dubai in 2012 with all proceeds going to the WFP. Shamma has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions including: “London”, Art Sawa Gallery (Dubai, 2017); World Civil War Portraits, The Old Truman Brewery (London, 2015); Diaspora, Art Sawa Gallery (Dubai, 2014); Q, Royal College of Art (London, 2013); Birth, Art House (Damascus, 2011); Love, 360 MALL (Kuwait, 2009); The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition, The Mall Galleries (London, 2013); Nord Art 2012 organized by KiC – Kunst in der Carlshütte (Büdelsdorf, 2012); UAE Through Arabian Eyes, (Dubai, 2008); Syrian Artists, Souq Wakef Art Center (Doha, 2008); Panorama of Syrian Arts, Catzen Arts Centre at The American University (Washington D.C, 2007); (shortlisted) International Painting Prize of the Castellon County Council, (Castellon 2005), Castellon and the Municipal Arts Centre of Alcorcon, (Madrid, 2005-2006); Women and Arts, International Vision, Expo Sharjah (Sharjah, 2005).
Art Awards include first prize in Latakia Biennial, Syria (2001), 4th BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London (2004), 1st The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, The South Australian Museum (2008), and a painting prize at the Florence Biennial (2013).
In 09 April 2019, King’s College London have announced Sara Shamma as a King’s Artist in residence for 2019. Working with the university’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IOPPN) and the Helen Bamber Foundation, Shamma will develop a new visual vocabulary of modern slavery, culminating in an exhibition curated by Kathleen Soriano which will open during Frieze London (1 Oct-22 Nov 2019).