Hiwa K graduated from secondary school in Iraq and continued education in the self-educational circles of his home country with other visual artists, intellectuals, musicians and theatre artists. The major fields of these informal and non-systematic studies were European literature and philosophy, learnt from available books translated into Arabic. Since 1985, he has practiced painting – also in the public space. He abandoned the discipline around 1998 and completed flamenco guitar studies with the master Paco Peña, which led to working for several years in that field. Subsequently, he returned to visual arts and graduated in the Akademie der Bildende Kunst in Mainz, Germany and was guest student at Städelschule Frankfurt with Simon Starling. The practice of music has a strong influence on his visual arts projects.
His projects appear to be a continuous critique of art education, the professionalization of art practice, of staging and visibility as well as the myth of the individual artist. Many of his works are forms and outcomes of collaborations and have to do with the process of teaching and learning and insist rather on getting to know as everyday practice than knowledge as a formalized discipline.
Tensions, immediacies, and improvisations are the striking features of his works that escape normative aesthetics but give a possibility of another vibration to vernacular forms, oral histories, modes of encounter and political situations. The repository of his references consists of stories told by family members and friends, found situations as well as everyday forms that are the products of pragmatics and necessity.
Hiwa K’s works were included in group exhibitions at Documenta 14 (2017), 56th Venice Biennial curated by Okwui Enwezor (2015), Asian Art Biennial (2019), 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil (2019), Anren Biennale (2019), Yinchuan Biennale (2018), MOMA Ps1, New York (2019), The Contemporary Jewish Museum (2019), National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan (2019) Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2018), New Museum, New york (2014).
Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle Mannheim (2019), S.M.A.K. Museum, Ghent (2018), KW Institute of Contemporary Art (2017), KOW Gallery, Berlin (2016), Kunsthalle C, Stockholm (2015). His work has been awarded the 2019 Hector Preis and in 2016 the Arnold Bode Prize and the Schering Stiftung Art Award.