This show is an attempt to reflect on:
what makes a child to fight to sit on a particular chair;
why most people prefer to sit on the same chair at home;
what makes chairs of Napoleon, Isaac Newton, Henry The VIII look different than a chair in a waiting room;
whether chair becomes metaphor for identity, home, authority, and security.
Ala Bashir was born in Iraq in 1939, eighteen years after his country declared independence from Britain. As an artist and physician, Bashir was once not only part of Saddam Hussein’s medical team, but his reluctant confidant too. The resultant works from this period are given shocking context by Saddam’s remark that they would be ‘a record of Iraq at (that) point in history’.
The artist’s style is easily comparable to that of the surrealists, yet these nightmarish visions are not dreams- they depict the very real suffering he was witnessing daily. Unexpected directions in style often make his work difficult to decipher, whilst recurring signs such as the raven and the mask draw directly from traditional Iraqi imagery. Abstract backgrounds eat into the figurative, bricks fuse with skin, snakes fall like entrails from rotting apples. These tortured forms metamorphose into each other, contorted with pain. Bashir paints with great compassion from the devastating perspective of the Iran-Iraq war. Having formerly pioneered techniques for reattaching severed hands, this artist-surgeon now attempts to reconnect the eyes with the heart.