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Charcoal is made by burning, so an artist might use slivers of charred ruins to draw with. In the midst of all the color, it is the prominence of this dark medium from out of the flames that resonates most strongly in these works by Ahmed Alsoudani.
In another one of these paintings, the lost identities of body parts is a central subject, depicted in a confusion of what might be either animal or human. Here is the disembodied agony of Gericault’s morgue studies, a shattered mirror with no visible reflection, and duct work out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, complex and useless. The backdrop to the composition is a frame of steel bars, as if all the world had become the immense prison that Hamlet envisioned.
One painting catalogues surveillance and interrogation, both anatomical and electronic, accompanied by the torturer’s badge of rank and an homage to the technical precedent of nails for crucifixion. In another image, the bureaucrat's dice echo Golgotha once again, alongside a suggestion of the deformed Joseph Merrick, that 19th century "Elephant Man" with its pointed reminder of what’s lost beneath the skin.
In the United States, the memory of the violence that was the Iraq War is already at a distance, silenced and indistinct. But there are Iraqi artists whose work stands as a rebuke to our embrace of forgetfulness: Qasum Sabti, with his collages from fragments of burned books found in the ruins of a library bombed early in the Iraq War, or Abdel-Karim Khalil who carved a small marble figure in a purely Classical style, except with a prisoner’s hood pulled over its head. Alsoudani is another. Exile is no protection for an artist who records as clearly as he does what happened to the world he has left behind.
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