Being Dia al-Azzawi: Dia al-Azzawi: The Avant-Garde of the Baghdad Modern Art Group by Charbel Dagher

Dia al-Azzawi was twelve or thirteen years old when Jewad Selim launched the Baghdad Modern Art Group. The group’s artistic works, alongside the emergence of the “free verse” movement (as it was called), were the first cultural and artistic representations that captivated his interest in the world of art and culture. His connection with the group is certain, but this relation eventually led to separation, to another beginning: as soon as Azzawi’s artistic influence grew, along with his peers from the same generation he launched the New Vision Group, stressing that art in Iraq needs a different vision.

While the vision of the Baghdad Group was “cultural” (“civilised” and “modern” according to their initial statement), Azzawi was closer to its essence: presence and effectiveness in the present. His presence as an artist was closer to the one found in artists worldwide from the first half of the twentieth century, such as Picasso, Giacometti, Dubuffet, and others.

The artists of the Baghdad Group drew inspiration from the remnants of Mesopotamian arts (which have now come together in the first Iraqi Museum of Archaeology), while Azzawi studied archaeology at university and experienced archaeology just like a potter would with clay. Nevertheless, he was closer to the “leaps” of Iraqi aspirations towards liberation and closer to the fervent politics, with his approaches resembling Assyrian sculpture in form.

He would express, react, and engage with the pulse of the times, forming close friendships with those who seek the hidden voices of contemporary Iraq, like Muzaffar al-Nawab and Youssef al-Sayigh, among others.

To this dynamic Iraq, Azzawi’s attraction remained strong. He approached the poetry of friends to blend the angry anthem with the tormented scream: in the Land of Darkness, or the dispersion of Palestinian blood, or in The Martyr, which he elevated to the ranks of a legendary hero… he brought forth contemporary features from Ur, Sumer, and the side profile contours of Assyrian art…

His pen, or his brush, never hesitate to shape what he believes is the duty of presence, the duty of representation, in the tragedies, crimes, and wars that obliterate the faces of the oppressed under the tanks of oppression and occupation, especially those whose features vanish in silenced crimes.

Azzawi has resided in London for over 45 years, without being in exile, as he carries his homeland (both in a narrow and expansive way) with him wherever he goes, wherever he paints. In this homeland he has crafted for himself, he leaves no friend in their prison, no convict in front of an execution platform, no girl waiting for her distant lover’s arrival in Baghdad every day…

This is the power that art bestows upon humans, history, and the present. For art, regardless of its subject, is a celebration of life; it is undeniably an elevated life.
It is the power nourished by experiences and hopes. It feeds off its ability to generate form and the emergence of colour that captivates the eye, making the human scene in the painting a beautiful sight.

Even pain, in art, can be beautiful!

Even the scream, in art, can be aesthetic!
So how can life not have its celebrations, joys, and banquets, in the expanses of bright colours and in the melodies of musical forms!

With Azzawi, in his art, there is an invitation to life from beneath the bloody rubble, and a scream for freedom in the clarity of sculptural construction.

It is a world of eternal passions. It is the world of Dia al-Azzawi.

We Remain Kids for a While and other poems: Charbel Dagher, 2016 Ink and watercolour on paper and foamboard; acrylic on plaster and wood 10 x 12 x 2 cm (length 156 cm; box 27 x 14 x 5 cm)

We Remain Kids for a While and other poems: Charbel Dagher:

We remain kids for a while
We enjoy perusing the pages of yesterday: We remember, and recount what happened to us in them…

…When we are kids
We enjoy growing up,
Playing our roles,
And that is what the poet does in the childhoods of language.

Translated into English by Frank Darwish (2022)

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

selections-arts-logo

SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
Selections Viewing Rooms presents carefully curated online art shows aiming not only to shed light on contemporary art executed by living artists, but also for viewers to buy contemporary fine art, prints & multiples, photography, street art and collectibles.
Discover the previous and current shows here.
Cultural Narratives foundation is an extensive collection that is travelling the world by leading established and emerging talents aiming to reflect the culture of the region in their works.

RANDOM READS

‘Sheher, Prakriti, Devi’ curated by Gauri Gill at Ishara Art Foundation

Ishara Art Foundation proudly presents “Sheher, Prakriti, Devi,” an exhibition curated by the renowned artist and photographer, Gauri Gill. Marking Gill’s debut as a curator, the show delves into the intricate relationship between dynamic cities, the natural environment, and the…

‘The Tale of 1001 Gazes’ by Samina Virani at the Sharjah Art Museum

Samina Virani unveils her exhibition, ‘The Tale of 1001 Gazes,’ at Sharjah Art Museum centred around the theme ‘Manifestations.’ Invited by the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival, Virani presents a labyrinth of mirrors installation and a poetic soundscape with visual projections…

Desert X AlUla 2024

Desert X AlUla, a recurring and temporary open-air art exhibition in the globally significant ancient desert region of AlUla in the Arabian Peninsula, returns for its third edition from February 9 to March 23, 2024. This exhibition, part of the…

Artistic Unity: Art in the UAE. Tabari Artspace interview with Chafa Ghaddar

This article appeared in The Artistic Unity Issue #67 that was dedicated to the art scene in the UAE in which we unravel the threads of unity by exploring the perspectives of various stakeholders within the UAE’s art community. Through…

‘Flames’ by Jean Boghossian at Anima Gallery Doha

Jean Boghossian’s solo exhibition ‘Flames,’ hosted by Anima Gallery in Doha, Qatar, serves as a testament to his evolution from a jeweller to an artist. Coming from a background deeply rooted in jewellery craftsmanship, Boghossian’s early artistic endeavours were shaped…

Artistic Unity: Art in the UAE: Hussein Sharif

This article appeared in The Artistic Unity Issue #67 that was dedicated to the art scene in the UAE in which we unravel the threads of unity by exploring the perspectives of various stakeholders within the UAE’s art community. Through…

february 2024

24oct(oct 24)09:0017feb(feb 17)09:00Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa; Stories of Coffee in Qatar and Indonesia

26oct(oct 26)09:0005mar(mar 5)09:00'MEHDI MOUTASHAR: INTROSPECTION AS RESISTANCE'

10nov09:0010mar09:00Armenia Contemplating the sacred