Mohammad Omar Khalil in conversation with Maya Jaggi
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Mohammad Omar Khalil speaks to Maya Jaggi about Khalil’s solo exhibition Homeland Under My Nails and looks back on his work. A painter and master printmaker, Khalil trained in Khartoum in the 1960s and went on to study in Italy before moving to New York in the late 1970s where he has lived and worked ever since. Khalil continued to move between the U.S. and North Africa, to Morocco and Sudan. An influential figure in international modernism, Khalil ran print workshops at Asilah Festival, established by the Casablanca Art School over three decades. Now aged 83, Homeland Under My Nails is the first UK solo exhibition of the work of this important artist.
Homeland Under My Nails presents selected prints from 1964 to the present day from Khalil, and explores the stylistic experimentation and international sensibility of the artist who trained in Sudan and Italy and has lived in New York (USA) and Asilah (Morocco) since the early 1970s. Khalil is one of the most significant artists of this generation from Sudan and the Arab World. Curated by Abed AlKadiri, the exhibition shows works from throughout Khalil’s career, some of which are displayed here for the first time.
Mohammad Omar Khalil, born in 1936 in a village near Khartoum, studied at the School of Fine and Applied Arts in the Sudanese capital, alongside members of what is now termed the Khartoum School. Graduating in 1959 he was appointed Head of Painting at the school before moving to Florence in 1963 to study frescoes and mosaics at the Academy of Fine Arts, Florence and later, Ravenna. From Italy Khalil moved to New York where he was to stay, and still works today. Recent solo exhibitions: You Don’t have to Be, Aicon Gallery, New York (2019), Mohammad Omar Khalil, 50 Years of Printmaking, Contemporary Art Platform Kuwait (2014). Group exhibitions: Art Sudan, Meem Gallery, Dubai (2011).
Maya Jaggi is an award-winning cultural journalist, critic and artistic director who writes on art and literature for the Financial Times, New York Review of Books and Guardian Review, and contributes to the BBC. She is a former staff journalist for the Guardian, where she became known for pioneering cultural writing on the global South, and has profiled many leading artists and writers, from Edward Said to Paula Rego and Frank Bowling. Educated at Oxford University and LSE, she has reported from five continents, won four national newspaper awards, been a finalist for the Orwell Prize for Journalism and received an honorary doctorate from the Open University. She has also been a DAAD Arts and Media fellow in Berlin and an EU Senior Expert in Cultural Journalism in post-Soviet Europe.
Image: Mohammad Omar Khalil in his studio in New York (2019). Photograph by Abed AlKadiri.