Fathi Hassan was born in Cairo, 1957 to Egyptian parents from Nubia. His family moved away from Nubia, their homeland when the Aswan High Dam was built, flooding a vast area now under Lake Nasser. Whether in photographs, paintings, installations, drawings or, often, directly on walls, his texts are deliberately illegible intended to highlight the plight of lost languages and oral history as a result of colonial domination. In his early twenties he obtained a grant to study at Naples Art School and, after graduating in 1984, he continued to live for many years in Italy. Latterly working between Italy and Great Britain, he finally took up residence in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2018. In his work Hassan experiments with the written and spoken word, exploring the theme of ancient languages erased by colonialism. With invented Kufic-inspired scripts, he plays with the symbols, textures and calligraphy of his Nubian heritage to explore the space between graphic symbolism and literal meaning in vibrant colours and collage. Forms are often given to these texts which can become as important as the text itself. These tend to be the organic forms of the natural world: the human face, leaves, plants, flowers, animals, the universe and its heavenly bodies. For many years Hassan also experimented with the vase form in his highly regarded series of Containers.
Hassan is currently collaborating with Messadi Art Gallery and Zamalek Art Gallery in Cairo, Egypt. Also with Lawrie Shabibi Art Gallery, Dubai, having participated with them at the 1.54, Art Fair, London (2018), and the recent solo exhibition “Whispers” at the Dubai Gallery (2019). His work will also be presented by them at the Dallas Art Fair 2019. He is also working with Moroso Designs, Milan in the production of his tapestry featuring his work.
For many years, he worked productively with renowned curator Rose Issa. As well as the solo show "Fathi Hassan: Haram Aleikum" curated by Rose Issa Projects at Leighton House Museum, London (2010), he participated in "The “Re-Orientations II", Rose Issa Projects, London (2012), "The Seven Valleys", Rose Issa Projects, London (2013). Their collaboration also included "Arabicity" at the Beirut Exhibition Center, Lebanon, as well as several publications.
Over the past 30 years he has participated in numerous solo and group shows in Italy (including the 1988 Venice Biennale), Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain and the USA. Of the solo shows we might mention "Containers of Memory", Annina Nosi Gallery, New York (1995), “Fathi Hassan”, National Museum Villa Pisani, Stra, Venice (2008),“Fathi Hassan: Transformation” at Skoto Gallery, New York (2011), “Faces and Voices”, John Rylands Library, Manchester UK (2012), "The Depth of Hope", V.C.U. Qatar, Doha (2014) "Migration of Signs", Williams Museum, Massachusetts (2015), and "Whispers", Lawrie Shabibi Galery, Dubai (2019). Group shows include an installation at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC (2002), “Text Messages”, October Gallery, London (2006) "Arabicity" at the Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool and Beirut Exhibition Centre (2010), Rose Issa Projects at Abu Dhabi Art (2011) and "Summer Exhibitions", Royal Academy, London (2012).
His work is in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum, London and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC and Farjam Collections among many others.
He is the subject of numerous publications and writings by major critics, curators and experts, from Rose Issa, Achille Bonito Oliva, Maurita Poole and Liliane Karnouk to Kathleen Goncharov, Francesca Petracci, Elizabeth Harney and Enrico Crispolti. He also features in the recent book“Lumieres Africaines” published by Langages du Sud, (2018).