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Exhibition Of Iraqi Artists
30 March - 2 May 2015

Hani Mazhar, Ali Jabbar and Ala Bashir are Iraqi artists who live in the UK. In different ways they have experienced some of the upheavals in their country, most notably Ala Bashir, who was intimately caught up in Saddam Hussein's regime, not least as the dictator's physician when he was also the country's leading plastic surgeon as well as, arguably, its leading artist. The location is a stylish gallery on Baker Street and the ground level space is particularly open with lots of natural light. The large downstairs room was used to exhibit Hani Mazhar and Ali Jabbar and while they differ, their paintings differ markedly from Ala Bashir's in being full of mostly representational shapes and very colourful, whereas Bashir's are austere and directly focused on, usually, a single object, a chair. A few of Mazhar's works reference Iraq (obviously, "Baghdad" and the triptych, "Lament for Mesopotamia") but, more often they are conceptual but within a  figurative style. Ali Jabbar seems to go out of his way not to be anchored, though "I Don't Belong to any World" is just one work that gestures towards a loss of identity.

Ala Bashir's theme of chairs is - like some of the objects - twisted and twisted again to wring out the meanings of this ubiquitous piece of furniture. Some cannot but evoke torture and pain, notably "Blue Shirt", and one wonders what horrors the artist/surgeon witnessed up to 2003. However, these works from 2010 onwards are at more of a distance from the truly frightening works from earlier in his distinguished career. What comes across is that whereas chairs have often been distorted in modern art, to the point that one cannot imagine being able to sit upon them or only in a dream, the distortion in Bashir's chairs, whether they are twisted in on themselves or fuse into a human body or body parts, points to an internal struggle within some of the chairs. As a commercial gallery, the Hay Hill hasn't produced a catalogue of the exhibition, though there is a one-page handout on each artist, as well as a price-list.

Professor Douglas Tallack
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) and Head of the College of Arts, Humanities & Law University of Leicester, UK


E-mail: info@hayhillgallery.com