Last time Iraq had a pavilion at the Venice Biennale, in 1976, Ahmed Alsoudani was barely a year old. Now 36, he is the youngest of six artists representing his country, in a politically charged interpretation of this year's "water" theme. Having fled Baghdad to Syria in 1995 before seeking asylum in the USA, Alsoudani is well placed to represent a generation ravaged by conflict – which he does through big, angst-ridden paintings of disembodied heads and multi-coloured body-parts.
Still basking in his Venice success, Alsoudani is preparing for his first solo show in Britain, at London's Haunch of Venison, billed as a "complex exploration of war and conflict, its physical atrocities and psychological consequences".
"Being an artist is my way of making a difference to this screwed-up society," the artist explains from his studio in Chelsea, New York. Alsoudani was born in Baghdad in 1975, one of four brothers and two sisters. Growing up in "the middle of nowhere," he and his siblings "would pass the time as children doing calligraphy and drawing," but were encouraged to pursue more stable careers.
But in 1999, his application to art school in Damascus was rejected. "So when I moved to the States my first goal was to go to art school," he says. Today Alsoudani has two degrees, and counts the Saatchi Gallery and the Arab Museum of Modern Art among his exhibitors. "I believe in making statements," Alsoudani says. "Right now there are millions of people suffering and dying, I feel lucky to be in a space where I can say something about that."
Haunch of Venison, London W1 ( www.haunchofvenison.com) 14 October to 29 November