An Overview on Contemporary Iraqi Fine Arts

Ever since the trends of the Iraqi fine arts, in terms of style, schools and groupings, were formulated, they were mostly inspired by the identity of the school that grabbed the attention of art trainees coming mainly from Paris, London and Rome. At that time, the United States of America hadn’t formulated its schools after World War II. In addition to that, there was a certain faith community that started to have a conscious knowledge and paid considerable heed to the modern transformation of the Iraqi fine arts movement, particularly while looking at the frontal eye-side view of the old Iraqi school that became an icon of a Cubist school too for instance.

The Iraqi fine arts were dominated by traditions and various progressive aesthetic contexts, as well as a growing argument over artistic knowledge between two major approaches in Iraqi fine arts. The first approach was led by the talented founder of modern fine arts in Iraq, Faek Hassan. The second one was directed by the pioneering artist Jawad Salim who wrote the conceptual and theoretical PhD dissertation.

Faek Hassan’s approach has contributed to a high professionality in fine arts with respect to relatively solid rules that aren’t usually accessible except to a limited number of professional and experienced elites. This approach encompassed proficient work, where the experimental aspect of the artist is veiled behind the spectacular presentation of the craft. Being an instructor at the Institute and Academy of Fine Arts, Faek Hassan had contributed to the domain for decades. In the course of this decade, the most prominent Iraqi fine artists graduated, numbering more than fifty graduations. Even after he retired, he continued to train students, upon the request of the Academy of Fine Arts, and until the last day of his life in 1992. He provided an inclusive experience, through which he practically performed all styles, trends and methods; hundreds of people belong to his school with a clear tendency to the style that reflects his high skills, which others find it hard to keep pace with.

Whereas the revamped revolutionary Jawad Salim led another approach that harmonizes with the modern transformations and contemporary concepts of art, leaving behind the old school of painting and enforcing conceptual production. In spite of Jawad’s young age, who passed away in 1961 at the peak of his artistic bloom, he became a reference for norms and traditions that strongly competed with the first approach and had significantly influenced the birth of the subsequent contemporary and conceptual trends, styles and groupings. Consequently, a feverish strife has arisen disdaining the declarative realistic paintings in favor of the conceptual experimental ones, as these were narrated by the preeminent artist and professor of architecture Mouaffak Al Ta’i, as a witness of these dialogues. Inspired by Jawad Salim’s approach for the experimental movement, the one who made a real transformation even after decades of his death, it was stated that modernizers had cast realistic painters aside and limited their growth after their approach was adopted by early pioneers.

Nevertheless, the statistical outcome of the segmentation of the Iraqi Fine Arts conveys the effectivity of the subject, form and fact-driven drama. This gradually occurred by leaning to a reductive, expressive, surrealistic, cubic and conceptual zones that were manifested through international experiences such as Henry Moore, Jim Dali, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti and Joan Miro’s without losing sight of the inspirational old Iraqi heritage, Al-Wasiti school in Baghdad and a cluster of arts and configurations having a profound impact on the broader vision of fine arts and the upheaval against the mainstream of the art movement.

This is to signify that both abstract and realistic trends weren’t grounded in comparison with the experimental ones, as most of the experiences were altered from being realistic to being an achievement that abandons the declarative style and merges with one of the contemporary styles. Furthermore, these experiences that supported abstraction and mysticism failed to eradicate the authoritative influence on the form, subject, environment, place, myth and religion. This emptied the content of abstraction, diverged it from its roots and guided it in favor of the expressive abstract style. Thus, one would clearly observe the impact of the inherited narrative structure of the Iraqi artist from what occurred afterwards, due to the political and economic conditions that unfolded across the country and led to the retreat of the art groups and the downturn of monetary transactions. This ultimately led to the loss of Iraqi heritage of fine arts, together with forgeries that resulted from weak documentation and lack of organization of the announced visions that couldn’t align with rapid international artistic transformations, and failed in the production of Iraqi artists along with their openness in terms of form, content, methods and concepts at fine art exhibitions, as evoked by Mahmood Shubbar’s special experiences and their transformations, highlighting an art worth following, analyzing and authenticating with a scientific analytical criticism that parts with the declarative style and first impressions. Hence, he is trying to unveil the visual powers of fine arts that underpin artist's achievement.