Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist

Over 80 paintings go on show in this retrospective of the Sudanese painter Ibrahim El-Salahi, charting the artist’s career over 50 years.

Ibrahim El-Salahi, Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1, 1961-5 © Ibrahim El-Salahi

Ibrahim El-Salahi, Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1, 1961-5

Ibrahim El-Salahi is a little known figure in Britain, but that is set to change with this retrospective at Tate Modern. A semi-figurative painter, whose influences are a combination of western and eastern traditions, El-Salahi studied at The Slade School of Art in the 1950s before returning to Sudan and becoming a founder of a group of painters known as the Khartoum School, one of the most influential art movements in Africa in the 1960s.

This exhibition charts the artist’s evolution, from his early interest in Pissarro and Braque, to his later fascination with traditional Sudanese art practices. It concludes with paintings made since his return to Britain in the 1990s.

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In 1975 El-Salahi was imprisoned in Sudan without trial for six months. The experience left an indelible mark on his creative output; gone were the ochre-yellows of the Sudan earth that had so dominated before, and in its place the artist made a series of sombre black and white drawings that reflected the trauma of isolation. For much of the late 1970s and 1980s, El-Salahi’s pictures retained this style and can be seen in works like the pen and ink drawing Female Tree (1977).

Also on show is the major three-panel painting commissioned by the Museum of African Art in New York, One day I happened to See a Ruler (2008), that reflects his spiritual faith.

Venue details

Tate Modern Bankside London SE1 9TG 020 7887 8888 tate.org.uk

Entry details

£5 with National Art Pass (standard ticket price £10)

Sun – Thu, 10am – 6pm

Fri – Sat, 10am –10pm

Closed 24 – 26 Dec, and from 6pm on 31 Dec

Call 020 7887 8888 or book online at the Tate website

What the critics say


"El-Salahi's is the journey that painters have made through the ages and it is fascinating, and at times moving, to follow him on his."