Sadik Kwaish Al Fraji (Iraq/Netherlands)
To me, a work of art is a documentation of existential phenomena that I experience or observe, whether this is personal or related to others. As a result, I tend to concentrate on issues that touch my daily life as a human being and that stand in relation to the world around me. This means I often start with the most personal, which extends into the social, historical and political and larger issues such as love, alienation, memory, freedom, identity, war and conflicts.
I spent a significant period of my life as a young artist in Baghdad (Iraq), where I was born, grew up and did my art studies. The Iraq of my formative years was under a great deal of pressure due to its dictatorial regime, lengthy wars, constant fear and lack of security. I was forced to distance myself, mentally and sometimes emotionally from the crowd of people, in order to restore my own freedom that I was deprived of in the outside world as an attempt to protect/ shield myself from the propaganda of war and of the dictator who controlled every part of our social and cultural life. Still I was part of that crowd; I shared their fears, their dreams and grief. I found myself playing the role of the observer, documenting my life as well as that of the others. Trying to grasp every minute, scene or face and put it down on paper, any paper, to capture the image as well as the emotion on the spot, before it faded and got lost. Hundreds of small works were produced. Some of them I had to fold and hide in my pockets or in my bags, in order for them not to be seen by the eyes of the authorities.
All these factors, in addition to the intensity of emotions of a young artist, made drawing and graphic (specially woodcut and etching) an ideal technique/ form to use, where the sharp, rough lines and dark masses and shapes were mixed with the warm intense and confused emotions I used to experience.
I used to consider myself an existential expressionist, a witness to the pain, agony that not only my family and my friends suffered from, but also my beloved city, Baghdad, which was worn out by the continuous state of war. Eight gruesome years of war with Iran, followed by the First Gulf War and the Second, it was all so unbearable. I had to leave and I did.
In the Netherlands, I found a new home, a new life to begin. I studied Art and Graphics in one of its colleges, and visited many esteemed art museums and institutions in Europe, especially those specializing in modern and contemporary art. This opened my eyes, as well as my mind, to the vast world of art, new methods, mediums and the infinite possibilities in installation.
In the past few years, my work has developed into more conceptual forms, where the use of new media such as video, animations, ready-mades, and installations are mixed with my graphic and drawing background. This can be seen in the big black figure that reappears in most of my recent works. It is my interpretation of our existence embodied through this figure, looking at the world in amazement and bewilderment. That is why it has always accompanied me not only as an artist but also as a human being. Moreover, as my awareness of my existence deepens and becomes more intensified over the years, this figure has become more condensed, blacker and more shadowy.
Using new media not only provides a broad range of new techniques, but also makes my artwork richer and full of potentialities, as I am able to present multiple themes within the same concept of art. For example my installation 'The House that my Father Built' (2010), first shown at the inaugural exhibition of the Mathaf in Doha 'Told, Untold, Retold', speaks of nostalgia, love, death, home and family. All these themes are contained in one complete project/ concept using different mediums. These mediums and techniques with their vast potentialities encouraged me to use and reproduce old works of graphics and drawings using video animations in order to create new concepts related to our present time.