We asked artist Jafar Mohamed to keep a diary of his residency at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice. Below are his impressions on the city’s museums, paintings and the 55th Venice Biennale, which had been on since the summer:

Since my arrival, I’ve loved walking through the city, and have been drawn to its cool stones and ancient walls.

It is great to see the work of Venetian masters, Veronese, Titian and Tiepolo, alongside the contemporary art scene. One of my favourite sites was the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, painted by Tintoretto.

On my second week in Venice, I visited the pavilions and main exhibition of the 55th Venice Biennale. At the main exhibition, the Encyclopedic Palace, I found a video piece, The Da Vinci Robot, by Yuri Ancharani particularly haunting. Here, the artist films a clinical procedure completed by a surgical robot. I felt immersed in another world of unfamiliar sounds and shapes. I am amazed by the freedom artists have in the West.

The Japanese Pavilion was one of my favorites, I loved the emphasis on collective work and communal living: the piano played by four musicians, as a symbol for cooperation and the clay vase made by many hands.

Another highlight was Danae, by Vadim Zakharov at the Russian pavilion. This surreal exhibition, where a shower of gold coins rains down from the sky, explores the links between corruption and human development.

After seeing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, among other sights and exhibitions, I was saddened by how much we have missed, living in Iraq, being so deprived of many things all these years. I should have seen these great works of art in my 20s, not now.