Mijn hersenspinsels en gedachtekronkels

Exhibition I.M. Ziad Haider- زياد حيدر

Ziad met laatste werk

IM Ziad Haider

Gallery Out in the Field

Warmondstraat 197, Amsterdam

27/5- 27/6/2018
http://www.art-gallery-outinthefied.com

زياد حيدر

Here the Original Dutch version

The abstract works of Ziad Haider (1954, Al-Amara, Iraq-2006 Amsterdam, the Netherlands) can be interpreted as deep reflections on his own turbulent biography, but always indirect, on a highly sublimized level. Born in Iraq and lived through a period of war and imprisonment, and after he found his destiny in the Netherlands, he left an impressive oeuvre.

Ziad Haider studied in the first half of the seventies at the Baghdad Institute of Fine Arts. In the two decades before a flourishing local and original Iraqi art scene was created. From the fifties till the seventies Iraq was one of the leading countries in the Arab world in the field of modern art and culture. Artists like Jewad Selim, Shakir Hassan al-Said and Mahmud Sabri shaped their own version of international modernism. Although these artists were educated abroad (mainly in Europe), after returned to Iraq they founded an art movement which was both rooted in the local traditions of Iraq as fully connected with the international developments in modernist art. They created a strong and steady basis for an Iraqi modern art, unless how much the Iraqi modern art movement would suffer from during the following decades of oppression, war and occupation, so much that it mainly would find its destiny in exile.

The turning-point came during the time Ziad Haider was studying at the academy. Artists who were a member of the ruling Ba’th party- or willing to become one- were promised an even international career with many possibilities to exhibit, as long as they were willing to express their loyalty to the regime, or even sometimes participate in propaganda-projects, like monuments, or portraits and statues of Saddam Husayn. Ziad Haider, who never joined the Ba’th party, was sent into the army.

In 1980 the Iraqi regime launched the long and destructive war with Iran. Many young Iraqis were sent into the army to fight at the frontline. This also happened to Ziad Haider. The Iraq/Iran war was a destructive trench war in which finally one million Iraqis (and also one million Iranians) died. The years of war meant a long interruption in Ziad Haider’s career and live as an artist. It turned out much more dramatic for him, when he was back in Baghdad for a short period at home. He was arrested after he peed on a portrait of Saddam Husayn. Ziad Haider was sent to Abu Ghraib Prison, where he stayed for five years (1986-1990) probably the darkest period of his life. After his time in prison he was sent away to the front again, this time in a new war: the occupation of Kuwait and the following American attack on Iraq.

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After the Intifada of 1991, the massive uprising against the Iraqi regime in the aftermath of the Gulf War, which was violently supressed, Ziad Haider fled Iraq, like many others. After a period of five years in Syria and Jordan he was recognized by the UN as a refugee and was invited to live in the Netherlands, which became his new homeland. With a few paintings and drawings, he arrived 1997 in Amersfoort. After Amersfoort he lived for short a while in Almere and finally in Amsterdam. In first instance it was not simple to start all over again as an artist in his new country. Beside he worked further in his personal style he started to draw portraits in the streets of Amsterdam (the Leidse Plein and the Rembrandtplein). Later he organised, together with the Dutch artist Paula Vermeulen he met during this time and became his partner, several courses in drawing and painting in their common studio. Ziad Haider was very productive in this period and created many different works in different styles. Giving courses in figurative drawing and painting and drawing portraits was for him very important. As he told in a Dutch television documentary on five Iraqi artists in the Netherlands (2004, see here) these activities and the positive interaction with people were for him the best tools to “drive away his nightmares”.

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In his abstract works, always the main part of his artistic production, he sought the confrontation with the demons from the past. Although abstract there are often some recognisable elements, which are returning in several works during the years. A returning motive is the representation of his feet. This refers to several events from his own life. As a soldier Ziad had to march for days. When he was released from prison, together with some other prisoners, he was the only one who, although heavily tortured on his feet, who was able to stand up and walk. And his feet brought him further, on his long journey into exile, till he finally found a safe place to live and work.

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The motive of his bare feet is not the only figurative element in his work. In many of his paintings and drawings there are some more or less anthropomorphic elements, often molten together with structures with the appearance of liquid metal. The theme of man and machine plays an important role in the expressive works of Ziad. Of course this is close connected to his own biography and history of war and imprisonment.

In some of his works one can vividly experience a sense of a claustrophobic space, referring to his time spending in the trenches during the war, the interior of the tank and- later- the prison-cell. But all these experiences went through a process of transformation, of abstraction and translated in the language of art. And this art is, unless the underlying struggle, very lyrical in its expression.

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The also in the Netherlands living Iraqi journalist, poet and critic Karim al-Najar wrote about Ziad Haider: “For a very long time the artist, Ziad Haider, has been living in solitude, prison and rebellion. On this basis, the foregoing works constitute his open protest against the decline, triviality and prominence of half-witted personalities as well as their accession of the authority of art and culture in Iraq for more than two decades. Here we could touch the fruits of the artist’s liberty and its reflection on his works. For Ziad Haider has been able to achieve works showing his artistic talent and high professionalism within a relatively short time. We see him at the present time liberated from his dark, heavy nightmares rapidly into their embodiment through colour and musical symmetry with the different situations. It indeed counts as a visual and aesthetic view of the drama of life as well as man’s permanent question, away from directness, conventionality and false slogans”.

Although he opposed another American war against Iraq, with an uncertain outcome for its people, the end of the Ba’athist regime made it possible to visit his home country after many years of exile. In the autumn of 2003 he visited Iraq for the first time since his long absence in exile. His visit to iraq made a great impression and also influenced his work after. In the last series of paintings he made his use of colours changed dramatically. The explosive use of intense shades of red were replaced for a use of sober browns and greys. The dynamic compositions were changed in regular constructed forms. Also these works, from his last series, are represented on this exhibition.

Ziad meant a lot for many, as an artist, but also as a human being and a friend. Within the community of exiled Iraqi artists in the Netherlands he played a very important role. In 2004 he initiated the Iraqi cultural manifestation in Amsterdam, with the title “I cross the Arch of Darkness”, a quote from a poem by his friend, the also in the Netherlands living Iraqi poet Salah Hassan ( ﺃﻋﺒﺭﻗﻮﺲ ﻟﻟﻆﻻﻢ  ﺃﻮﻤﻰﻋ ﻟﻟﻧﻬﺎﺭ ﺑﻌﻛﺎﺰﻱ  ,  from his collected poems, published under the title “A rebel with a broken compass”, 1997). In this festival visual artists, poets, musicians and actors came together to show the variety and richness of the Iraqi cultual life in exile to a Dutch audience.

During the years Ziad and Paula lived at the Rozengracht in the old centre of Amsterdam, there home was a regular meetingpoint of many exiled Iraqi artists, poets, writers, musicians, actors, journalists and intellectuals. Many will cherish their sweet memories of the sometimes notorious gatherings till deep in the night. His sudden death in 2006 was a great loss for many of us.

The works of Ziad are still here and they deserve to be exhibited (now his second exhibition after he passed away). With this exhibition we celebrate Ziad Haider what he meant as an artist and as a human being.

Floris Schreve

Amsterdam, 2018

Gallery Out in the Field

On this blog (mainly in Dutch):

Tentoonstelling Ziad Haider (Diversity and Art)

Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap

Modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa (English)

See also this In Memoriam of Ziad’s friend, the artcritic  Amer Fatuhi

The opening:

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