Abul Hisham (b. 1987) is an Indian artist who participated in the residency program at the Rijkakademie in Amsterdam from 2021 to 2023. In 2024, he was awarded the prestigious De Schefferprijs.

Hisham’s work features deep colors, serene landscapes, human figures, and religious rituals, often viewed through the innocent eyes of a child. His paintings radiate a sense of calm and evoke wonder. A recurring element in his work is the wall, painted with a palpable, sandy texture that seems to separate one part of the painting from another: a praying boy from a mosque, a socker player from the field and its goal, or a group of friends from their homeland. In today’s political climate, it’s hard not to see this wall as a symbol of borders and migration. However, there seems to be more to it than just social criticism. Hisham invites his viewers to decipher a multitude of metaphors and symbols of human existence, whether they are about desire, power, faith, or memory.

ABOUT Abul Hisham

Born in 1987 in Thrissur, Kerala, India
Lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

With an MFA in Painting from S.N. School of Arts, University of Hyderabad, and a BFA from Government College of Fine Arts, Thrissur, Hisham’s artistic journey is deeply rooted in his upbringing in India.

Drawing inspiration from the Safavid, Mughal, Rajput, and Deccani art traditions, Hisham crafts portraits and tableaux that are mysterious and evocative. His scenes often depict his native India, yet the characters transcend geographical boundaries. Central to his work are themes of shared histories, hierarchy, and power, with a particular focus on religious conflicts and caste systems.

Hisham’s artistic expression finds form in paintings on canvas and wood, dry pastel, wood carvings, and casting powder. Working with powdered pigment, he sculpts from dust, echoing the belief that humans are created from and return to dust after death. Some pigments used by Hisham are derived from mined minerals, symbolizing the eternal cycle of creation and transformation.

Exploring the notions of desire, death, and memory, Hisham’s body of work delves into the multi-layered profundity of these themes, intertwining them with the social and cultural spaces he inhabits. He draws inspiration from various sources including cinema, pop culture, art history, mythology, and religion, inviting viewers to decipher the rich metaphors and symbols embedded within his art. In addition to his two-dimensional works, Hisham is currently exploring sculptural installations that delve into memories of inner space, exploring their potential connections to the idea of the Self.