Issam comes from a fine art, architecture and theatre design background. Born in Syria, he trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Damascus, the Repin Institute of Fine Arts in Leningrad (St Petersburg) and at Wimbledon School of Art (London). Since 1990, he has lived and worked in Cambridge, eventually becoming a Christ’s College, Artist in Residence and a Bye-Fellow (2007-2011), and where he is now a Lector in Art.
In 2009, as part of Cambridge University’s celebration of its 800th anniversary, Issam was invited to design the sets for the play Let Newton Be! and for a contemporary dance piece Light Matters, which was presented in the University Senate House. His Cambridge Palimpsest, a puzzle box linking time and archaeology, was also published by Cambridge University Press as part of the celebrations and was presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
His work has been widely exhibited and, in 2008, a collection of his sketches Sound Palimpsest (some inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh and others by language, war and memory) was acquired by the British Museum and exhibited in their Iraq’s Past Speaks to the Present exhibition, run in parallel with their major 2008-2009 exhibition Babylon: Myth and Reality. The Museum also featured Issam’s work in their 2011 exhibition: Modern Syrian art at the British Museum.