Presenting a work from the Wall series one of the most well-known series in the oeuvre of Shaker Hassan Al Said, the present work reflects the artist’s exploration into the Arabic letter after establishing the One Dimension group. Exploring the endless possibilities in the line and the Arabic letter, the artist searched for the spiritual in the epistemological meaning of art. Finding an innovative approach to the rejection of three dimensions and instead digging deeper into a quest into the internal dimensions, his works focuses on the eternity of the surface, turning away from the stylized calligraphy of the artist’s contemporaries and focusing instead on the gestural patterns found in the city walls, ‘replete with anxiety, fear and spontaneity as it is full of obscure, repressed and deceptive signals’ (Shaker Hassan Al Said, “The Philosophical, Technical and Expressive Aspects of the One Dimension” Baghdad: Natba’at al-Sha’b, 1972, p. 5-9, found in eds. A. Lensse, S. Rodgers, N. Shabout, Modern Art in the Arab World, Museum of Modern Art, New York, p.359).
In this sense, Al Said's composition conjures up the image of an old derelict wall, which although appears ancient and worn, simultaneously anchors itself in the modern context through graffiti and abstract splashes of paint. In the present work, Al Said's exploration of the dimensions of space and time are apparent and mesmerisingly connects the two-dimensional canvas with non-dimensional space through the cracks in the wall. Al Said pursues inspiration from tradition (istilham al-turath) as well as the Arabic letter (istilham al-harf) while constructing a vision clearly rooted in modern culture. As the artist states ‘The One Dimension..seeks to express the human self in a state of encounter with nature as wall, or nature as ground. Therein lies its expressive role in art’ (ibid., p.359) In the present example, the Arabic script presents a literary, symbolic, graphic and emotional significance despite its illegibility. Al Said's focus was turned not to the highly stylised and rule laden calligraphy of Arab tradition, but in fact searched for freedom in the simplest form of individual letters.
'The use of the letters of the alphabet as an art form is nothing more than a version of the contemplative vision, because it tries to perceive simultaneously the unity of the two worlds in which he lives the world of thought through language and the plastic world of observation.'
(The artist quoted in Sartec/Ministry of Information of the Iraqi Republic (eds.), Iraq Contemporary Art, Vol.1 Painting, Milano 1977, p. 118.)
In the present work, the artist scribbles on the wall, incorporating circular components, its technique akin to an intense trance, like the deep religious states of Sufis, art was a means to connect Man with God and depict the cosmic collapse of time into space. Referencing cracked walls, graffiti and other symbols such as the Arabic ‘waw’ and ‘huwa’, the artist focuses on the beauty and mystical elements of these signs and their dimensionality to bring them closer to God.
Since the mid-1960s, Said turned to experimenting with Arabic script and applying this new visualization to pure Sufi mystical concepts and Western existential philosophies within his wall paintings, gradually abandoning figurative expression and making this work feel like a contemplative art. It was also during this time that many violent events had affected Iraq. repletion within war in history, cycle of war, death, life – never-ending. deteriorating situation in Iraq. . It is through this deconstruction, both in the literal sense of the work’s fissured composition, the abstraction of lettering and the dense colour palette found within the central axis that it parallels to the fissures found within the Iraqi society
Responsible for the development of modern art in Iraq, Al Said was a practicing theorist, teacher and writer on art history who sought to achieve a distinct local art style that incorporated Western trends firmly rooted in the local style. Al Said is closely aligned with the vision of other artists such as Jewad Selim and J. Ibrahim Jabra, as he founded the Modern Art Group in 1951 and later the One Dimension Group in 1971.