Three to know: Emerging art concerning Iraq
Stunning contemporary pieces
From last year's Venice Biennale – where the Iraqi pavilion was a more than popular choice – to this summer's New Museum show in New York City, contemporary art from Iraq is making waves on the international culture scene, far and wide. “Iraqi artists couldn’t have been more cut off from the world before. Now they’re making a transition to the art-world mainstream, and it’s a really difficult thing to finesse,” said Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon and curator of the Iraq pavilion. A year on from the biennale, and as the country is on the brink of war again, its artists are continuing to showcase their work by going out on their own as contemporary creatives from the Middle East. And with it, they are attracting a new level of curatorial and critical interest.
Buro 24/7 highlights three names to watch out for:
Jamal Penjweny is a Iraqi Kurdish photographer, artist and a filmmaker. Penjweny started as a sculptor and painter in Iraqi Kurdistan and since 2004, while based in Baghdad, his photographs have reported the Iraqi conflict to the world.
Appearing in many international news publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The National Geographic, Penjweny's latest work as a filmmaker include the titles The Gun Market and Another Life, reporting on the life of smugglers and the illegal weapons trade at the border between Iraq and Iran – where he was born.
Penjweny’s photography series Iraq is Flying has been selected to be exhibited in the United Kingdom, the United States, Dubai, New Zealand, Brazil, and China in the past.
Here and Elsewhere is an exhibit opening at the New Museum on July 16, and is billed as a major survey of contemporary art from the Arab world and includes figures such as Emirati conceptual artists Hassan Sharif. He is considered the first conceptual artist from the country of the UAE.
Suspended Objects, 2011, mixed media, by Hassan Sharif will be on display at Here and Elsewhere in New York
Bassim Al Shaker
One of the youngest artists shown at the Iraq Pavilion was 28-year-old Bassim Al-Shaker from Baghdad, who is however stylistically one of its most classic.
Al Shaker's oil paintings are scenes of the southern marshlands, suggesting a lifestyle there of unbroken tradition. The recent reality is very different, of course, this being a place that suffered terribly during a bitterly cruel dictatorship.
While perhaps not straightforwardly a documentary, Al-Shaker's series reveals a side of Iraq's landscape that even many Iraqis have never even seen first-hand.