“The fire and blood blindly pouring over the living and the dead. Outlines of heads, legs, feet, hands—structured silhouettes and broadly outlined faces—overlap, piled on top of each other.” - Dia Azzawi
Measuring 15 meters long, one large scale-work by Iraqi master, Dia Azzawi, takes a panoramic view of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Based on images in the media, the artist reflects upon the tragedy faced by the Iraqi people in the aftermath of the bombing campaign and the subsequent collapse of the systems on which their daily lives once relied.
From the destruction of infrastructure and the looting of cultural institutions like the Archaeological Museum, Modern art collection and National Archive, to the savage treatment and abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Azzawi depicts the physical and psychological fragmentation of human beings undergoing such trauma.
Born in 1939, Dia Azzawi started his artistic career in 1964, after graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and completing a degree in archaeology from Baghdad University in 1962. In 1969, Azzawi (with Rafa Nasiri, Mohammad Muhriddin, Ismail Fattah, Hachem al-Samarchi and Saleh al-Jumaie) formed the New Vision group (al-Ru’yya al-Jadidah), uniting fellow artists ideologically and culturally as opposed to stylistically. Through his involvement with the New Vision group Al-Azzawi found inspiration in contemporary subjects and issues, particularly the plight of Palestinians. He was also briefly a member of Shakir Hassan Al Said’s One Dimension group (Jama’t al-Bu’d al-Wahid). From 1968–76, Azzawi was the director of the Iraqi Antiquities Department in Baghdad. He has lived in London since 1976, where he served as art advisor to the city’s Iraqi Cultural Centre, from 1977–80. Azzawi’s move to London led him to rediscover book art (dafater), an art form that he has encouraged other artists from Iraq and the region to explore.
With exhibitions of his work held worldwide – including, Interventions: A Dialogue Between the Modern and Contemporary, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, 2010 – his art features in the collections of museums and institutions including the Museums of Modern Art in Baghdad, Damascus and Tunis; Tate Modern, London; Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Kinda Foundation, Saudi Arabia; Una Foundation, Casablanca; Arab Monetary Fund, Abu Dhabi; Development Fund, Kuwait; Jeddah International Airport; British Museum, Tate Modern, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and Colas Foundation, Paris; Harba Collection, Iraq and Italy; Gulbenkian Collection, Barcelona; Library of Congress, and the World Bank, Washington, DC.