Nahem is a contemporary artist born in Notting Hill where he still lives and works.
Nahem has an international reputation as a painter of contemporary multicultural life. Until 2007 Nahem painted from life giant heads of people from black and ethnic backgrounds. Nahem then turned to other subjects that drew on 'unreal' sources, photograph, TV and film as well as memory, creating hugely multi-layered paintings bursting with incident, including floods and nuclear explosions.
Nahem made another dramatic move, "from a tangible kind of reality to something quite intangible where accident has been allowed to prompt imagination."
Most recently, Nahem has focused on making a deep study of trees in city parks and heaths, seeing them as forests of the city. Nahem sees the forest as a fragile thing, reminded whilst drawing trees that millions of acres of forests around the world are being destroyed.
Nahem graduated with a BA Fine Art Painting from Manchester Polytechnic 1991, followed by post graduate study at Slade London 1993 and an MA from the Royal Drawing School 2004.
Nahem has exhibited widely throughout the UK, and his work is in museums including the Exeter Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth City Art Gallery and Museum, the Hartlepool City Art Gallery, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum Coventry, where he exhibited his work alongside, Freud, Auerbach, Bomberg and Lenkiewicz, and in Bury City Art Gallery.
Nahem has shown at a number of recent high profile group exhibitions including 2018 Crosses, Crucifixion Now/ Resurrection Now: Art of Death and Life, Southwell Cathederal, 2017 Into The Wild Abyss (3 person show with Gordon Cheung and Rui Matsunaga) Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 2017 Portrait exhibition Face to Face, The Herbert, Coventry City Art Gallery and Museum, 2016 Hard-Boiled Wonderland, (3 person show with Rui Matsunaga and Marcelle Hanselaar) at the Jessica Carlisle Gallery, London.
Most recently in September 2019 Nahem curated a highly successful show at the Atkinson Art Gallery in Southport, called Black Presence. In this exhibition his own portrait paintings from his Black Heads series were on show together with key historic and contemporary paintings of black sitters including works by Joshua Reynolds and Sonia Boyce.
On the 3 paintings in People and Places, Nahem says,
"In March 1997, I first met Gbenga Ilumoka in my friend’s Desmond Haughton’s studio off Great Portland Street in London. Gbenga came to sit for Desmond and I, and we made 2 drawings of him and from this moment we all became firm friends. I quickly started to paint Gbenga’s portrait in oils and eventually made a series of around 22 portraits from life of Gbenga until 2006.
From 1998 as well as painting Gbenga I started to teach him the craft of painting from life, which lasted for 10 years and he became a good painter in his own right. This of course deepened our friendship and now over 20 years later I consider Gbenga one of my closest friends.
Since 1986 I have been drawing and painting my black and mixed race friends and they all felt that the only portrayals they saw of themselves in Museums were of a negative nature, slaves and servants. It was at this time when I was painting Gbenga that I knew this was going to become the major theme of my art and I was going to try get positive and powerful portraits of Black and BAME people into museums in Britain. This is beginning to happen now, but it was a huge challenge in the beginning due to institutional racism that was and still is in the Art world. The painting Gbenga Wearing a Red Top was painted in two 4 hour sittings in 1998 and is the companion piece to Gbenga Bare Shoulders which is now in the The Box, Plymouth City Art Gallery & Museum. The clothed and unclothed theme came out of Goya’s Majas and is a metaphor about what we hide and what we reveal. Gbenga was drowsy because of the summer heat and I like that this portrait captures this convincingly and makes it more intimate. Lola and Bukki were cousins of Gbenga who wanted to sit for me and Desmond. We painted the double portrait of them in 1998, completed in one 4 hour sitting and I love that they our together but staring out into different futures. Around this time a lot of people asked me to paint their portraits because they believed in the Multicultural theme of the project and were impressed by my work. One of these paintings was of Ngong Akim who worked at a market stall in Notting Hill. Painting these pictures of friends was a moving, profound experience for all of us and now the paintings, when they are being exhibited in major museums, are beginning to take a new meaning."
Nahem is a recent member of the Arborealist group of painters, and his work is in many international private and public collections.
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Listen to Nahem below talking about his work. This is from a longer video Nahem produced about his work during lockdown available on youtube https://youtu.be/zt2sapx84gs