05 January, 2010 - 31 January, 2010

Iraq, Two Faces

Faisel Laibi Sahi

Tuesday January 5, 2010

Iraq or Mesopotamia in Classical times, the region that gave rise to the world’s earliest civilizations, including those of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon – has a long history of invasion and occupation from Alexander the Great to Saddam Hussain. Up until the fall of the last tyrant, Iraq was a proud nation, the forerunner and champion of Arab arts in all forms of expression. Throughout the years Iraq managed to keep her dignity and pride in the well preserved National Museum of Iraq, home of important artifacts from the over 5,000 year long history of Mesopotamia – the most important museum in the world – the Iraqi heritage. The looting of the museum caused intense grief to many Iraqi intellectuals, artists and prominent individuals, of all political stripes – they decried the dismantling of Iraqi culture. Today, as Iraq is forging a new cultural identity in the wake of a long civil unrest, Albareh Gallery mounts a significant exhibition by two notable contemporary Iraqi artists in an unusual combination – modern realism and post modern two-dimensional art – a clash of two radically different styles that have been coexisting for more than three decades but with one unified objective: To redefine the world view on the Iraqi tradition, modernism and avant-garde. Faisel Laibi Sahi and Modhir Ahmed, are undoubtedly two of the most important Iraqi artists of this century. Even though the full scope and significance of their art may not yet have been grasped – contrary to most Iraqi artists of their generation, their works have appeared with increasing regularity in museums, galleries and alternative spaces across Europe both in solo exhibitions and alongside the work of their contemporaries.

Both Iraqis are from a generation of artists whose careers have coincided with the sweeping political changes of the1980s to the present. Their works represent the most provocative aspect in Iraq’s cultural void within which especially were valued mimesis, visible power and the passionate concept of genius along with pathos, drama and related humanistic values. These two artists are simultaneously ingenuous and profound, and the depth of their influence becomes apparent only after the fact.

Faisel Laibi Sahi, a Modern Realist has something for contemporary painters to build on, and Iraqi Post-Modernist, Modhir Ahmed has taken up himself some of the challenges his work presents.
Al Basra, the port of Iraq, where the Euphrates and the Tigris meet with a myriad of waterways possesses the largest date palm forest adorned with beautiful flowers, the origin of Sindbad the Sailor and the hometown of Bader Shaker AlSayab, the father of 20th century modern Arabic poetry – was Faisel Laibi Sahi’s window to the world.

Growing up with five creative siblings in Basra’s diverse culture was a strong foundation and influence to the budding artist. Faisel, guided by his elder brother Ali, discovered his environs by drawing. The first exhibition of his work was in 1958, at an annual interscholastic exhibition of fine arts in Basra. From then on, every year, he exhibited his works in the regional show that led him to the doors of the Fine Arts Institute in Baghdad in 1964.