Dia Azzawi: Something Different: Sculpture and Tapestry


15 March 15 – 30 April 2015 

Meem Gallery will present a solo exhibition dedicated to the sculpture and tapestries of Iraqi modern art pioneer, Dia Azzawi. Renowned for his colourfully rendered paintings, in recent years Azzawi has explored the art of sculpture more actively. Drawing on the visual culture of Mesopotamia, the martyrdom of Hussein, Arabic literature and poetry, and contemporary political issues, Azzawi’s use of various media – painting, drawing, sculpture, dafatir (book art), and tapestry – can be linked thematically. Tapestry is a new venture for the artist, a medium that is once again seeing a revival after the popularity of the tapies of European modernists such as Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso. A key work in the exhibition, Jenin Jenin, is a reworking of early 2002 work of the same title. Hand crafted at Atelier Pinton in France, the work is brought to life through this unusual medium to create a monumental masterpiece, measuring 300 x 456 cm. This impressive work will be shown alongside two smaller, more colourful works that reflect Azzawi’s iconic style, also created as tapestries.

Azzawi’s sculpture has gained considerable renown with key works such as Oh Tigris, exhibited in the British Museum’s Word into Art (2006), and Wounded Soul, displayed at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art’s inaugural exhibition Intersections (2010). Like his paintings, Azzawi’s sculptures are often vividly coloured, although he has also produced works in monochromatic tones and white bronze. Something Different will include a collection of sculptural works which have never been exhibited, most of which that were cast in the last three years. 

Born in Baghdad in 1939, Azzawi’s art features in the collections of museums and institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Museum of Modern Art, Damascus; Museum of Modern Art, Tunis; Museum of Modern Art, Amman; Kinda Foundation, Saudi Arabia; Una Foundation, Casablanca; Arab Monetary Fund, Abu Dhabi; Development Fund, Kuwait; Jeddah International Airport; British Museum, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; Saudi Bank, London; United Bank of Kuwait, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Paris; Colas Foundation, Paris; Harba Collection, Iraq and Italy; Gulbenkian Collection, Barcelona; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; and The World Bank, Washington, DC.

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Faisel Laibi Sahi: Agony and Recreation


January 28 – March 3 2015

Meem Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Iraqi artist Faisel Laibi Sahi’s recent paintings for the first time at Meem Gallery.

Faisel`s œuvre spans fifty years and demonstrates the artist’s continuing commitment to the ancient, traditional, modern and contemporary culture of Iraq. His vividly coloured paintings of individuals and group portraits display ostensibly harmonious scenes of leisure, as demonstrated in his Coffee House series and portraits of fruit, textile, shoe shine and laundry vendors. In his exhibition at Meem Gallery, characters such as The Butcher and The Accordian Player  are displayed; and in the case of larger works such as The Café 2, we see a grouping of people from the community, a waiter, a general, a couple reading a newspaper.

Faisel renders the works in a stylized realism, the iconography simple and easy to decode, or so it seems. Upon closer inspection, the repetition of forms and figures throughout his work leave a sense of the satirical on the viewer; and open discussion into deeper concerns such as class structure and political hierarchies of contemporary Iraqi culture. Faisel is indeed sardonic in nature, something that is highlighted not only in his art, but can be linked also to his work with the periodical press in Iraq, and the publication of his London based satirical newspaper, Al Meirasha (1992-2002).

Other key works in the exhibition include the 1978 masterpiece Martyrs, which at 70 x 450cm is truly monumental. Unlike his later work, this particular piece evokes a somber mood is reflected in his choice of palette, greys and black hues of the crowd stand starkly against the white shrouded figure of the martyr. 

Born in Basra in 1947, Faisel studied at the Institute of Fine Arts and Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad. In 1974 he travelled to Paris to pursue his studies further at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and Sorbonne Universités. In 1984, he moved to Florence, and after four years there in 1988 he went to Algeria to teach art. In 1991 he moved to London where he lives and works today. Since 1966, Faisel Laibi Sahi has exhibited his works internationally in the Middle East, North Africa, UK, Europe and USA.

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