Elmur’s work is composed of a fertile visual vocabulary that draws on his social and cultural heritage. He draws on his observations of life and memories of his childhood and youth for the scenes, situations and impressions that he depicts in his work. Heavy symbolism, a tendency towards vivid colour combinations, and distortion of natural figures and proportions are some of the markers of Elmur’s painting. Inspired by the many photographs he has collected from his family’s photography studio, Elmur’s paintings often emulate formal portrait settings with additional elements that complement but also unsettle the mood in his paintings. Plants and animals share the frame with the human subjects, limbs are shortened and proportions are distorted, altering the relationships between various objects and figures in the frame. All these elements are combined in a somewhat surrealistic swirl of memory, and the resulting paintings are tender, intimate vignettes of human relationships, the rituals and poetry of daily life and folklore.
Salah Elmur originally studied Graphic Design at the College of Fine and Applied Art, Sudan University, Khartoum. With a career spanning three decades, he has spent years travelling and living across East Africa and the Middle East and has participated in group and solo exhibitions in East Africa, the Middle East, Europe and America since 1985. Elmur has also published 12 children’s books and is a successful filmmaker; directing six short documentaries and fantasy films, which have been shown at international film festivals. In February 2018, the Sharjah Art Museum in the UAE held Fragrances of the Forest and Photos, a retrospective of Elmur’s work, followed by Forests and Spirits, an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London alongside two luminaries of Sudanese modernism, Kamala Ishaaq, and Ibrahim El Salahi. He participated in a group exhibition at the British National Museum and his work is collected widely and is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech, the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), Zeitz MOCAA, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Weisman Art Museum and the Pompidou Centre, Paris.