Isshaq Ismail

Lurid, boldy-composed portraits attest Isshaq Ismail’s exuberant artistic spirit.

Infantile Semi-Abstraction is the name Ismail gives to his distinctive style of portraiture. Drawing on the histories of Naïve painting, Neo-expressionism, Cubism and the architecture, art and history of his hometown, Accra, he examines personal feelings as they relate to our environments.


  • Original painting Nonchalant 2 purchased for $110,000 in Christies' 2021 Say It Loud sale, more than six times its upper estimate.
  • Extended presentation with 1-54 NY at Ross-Sutton Gallery, New York, 2021
  • BLACK VOICES: Friend of My Mind, group show at Ross-Sutton Gallery, New York, 2020
  • Layers: Isshaq Ismail Recent Works, solo show at Nicholas Roman Fine Art, New York, 2018
  • BLAU! FISCHE!, group show at TO LIVE IS TO CHOOSE, Stuttgart, 2019
Self 26 by Isshaq Ismail
Self 26, Isshaq Ismal, 2020.
Nonchalant I by Isshaq Ismail
Nonchalant 1, Isshaq Ismal, 2020.

The paintings have a sculptural sensibility. Luminous oil and acrylic shades are applied without inhibition as thick impasto, using an eclectic range of tools. Ismail also incorporates elements of collage and assemblage — often recycled debris from his studio — in a symbolic gesture that parallels the beauty found in imperfection with the inevitable faults of a human being.

“Like the way a sculptor sculpts human figures from clay, I sculpt my figures with the brush.”
Isshaq Ismal Studio Shoot

Being an artist, for Ismail, is a social calling. “I see it as my duty not only to make art for visual appeal, but also to create awareness and inspire society towards action.” Facade, a series of portraits from 2020, pulls together these two facets: form and civic function. While their stylisation establishes a marked distance from reality, skewed facial features express familiar human emotions that are designed to invoke the viewer’s empathy, the most fundamental step to thinking about others and, by extension, how we choose to treat those around us.

Facade 10 by Isshaq Ismail
Facade 10, Isshaq Ismal, 2020.
Facade 12 by Isshaq Ismail
Facade 12, Isshaq Ismal, 2020.

Away from his canvas, in 2018 Ismail founded Isshaq Projects, a foundation that platforms emerging and mid-career artists. This sense of collectivism percolates throughout Ismail’s practice as a compelling companion to his intuitive and experimental approach to painting.


All artworks courtesy of the artist.
Studio shoot by Melo Caan at Ismail’s studio in Accra, Ghana.

Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
“My art means everything to me. I am touching on the past, reflecting on the times that once were and prophesying the future.”
Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
Isshaq Ismail Studio Shoot
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Isshaq Ismail Portrait