'I'm not trying to make 'war paintings', but paintings about war. I'm more interested in depicting the effects of war on people who live under these circumstances. So generally I don't show actual battle scenes in which there are soldiers, or fighting weapons. I've been in the unique and painful situation of observing the war and being in the U.S. while my family remains in Baghdad. I'm away physically but I talk to my family very often, so I feel caught in between. This state of being 'between' two places and two worlds allows me to see and hear things from a different point of view' (A. Alsoudani, quoted in R. Goff, 'Ahmed Alsoudani in Conversation with Robert Goff', Ahmed Alsoudani, exh. cat, Goff + Rosenthal, New York, 2009, p. 61).
A visceral and captivating example of Ahmed Alsoudani’s acclaimed artistic practice, Untitled presents the viewer with semi-abstract figures that intricately intertwine into each other with an incredible force and dynamism. An eye, a foot, and other bodily fragments begin to reveal themselves from within the fantastical abstraction, only to then disappear into alluring painterly obscurity again. Combining the gestural immediacy of charcoal drawing with the chromatic nuances of painting, Alsoudani sumptuously gives rise to a state of contained disintegration, a state of ‘undoing’ so to speak. While traces of human forms are visible, Alsoudani evades presenting recognizable individuals. 'The faces are made up directly on the canvas', he states, 'and they always end up looking spectral... I am more interested in the traces or shadows of a face – an image of someone who was there at some point, but left, and no longer exits' (A. Alsoudani quoted in S. Biernoff, 'The Impurity of Painting', in Ahmed Alsoudani, exh. cat., Haunch of Venison, London, 2011, unpaged). Demonstrating this sense of haunting absence that Alsoudani intends to evoke, Untitled is a powerful psychological interrogation of the body in pain and the destruction of war – themes that are at the core of Alsoudani's oeuvre.
Sourcing his painterly imagination from all the horrors of war and despotism the artist witnessed in his homeland Iraq, Alsoudani creates scenes of devastation that unite anguish with an overwhelming beauty. Raised in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's rising reign of fear and torture, Alsoudani fled in exile to Syria at the age of 19 and later studied in America, at Maine College of Art and at the Yale University School of Art. As an exiled artist watching his country being ravaged by war, Alsoudani found himself 'caught in between', a state of mind which he describes as 'being 'between' two places and two worlds (which) allows me to see and hear things from a different point of view' (A. Alsoudani, quoted in R. Goff, 'Ahmed Alsoudani in Conversation with R. Goff', in Ahmed Alsoudani, exh. cat., Goff + Rosenthal, New York, 2009, p. 61). Alsoudani's evocative and emotional renderings of conflict, posits his oeuvre within a grand art historical tradition. Alsoudani cites Rogier van der Weyden's Descent from the Cross as a direct source of inspiration, and his conceptualization of violence futher invokes the canon of great masters such as Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso or Philip Guston. Whilst exploring the devastation of war, Alsoudani’s works remain kinetic with the vivid use of colour and detailing, stimulating all of the viewer’s senses. As the artist explained, 'I don't want the colour to be just a decorative element, I want to generate the painting and the drawing at the same time. This is the most challenging aspect... the moment the viewer establishes a connection with the painting, they discover the details have nothing to do with the palette' (A. Alsoudani, quoted in S. Biernoff 'The Impurity of Painting', Ahmed Alsoudani, exh. cat., Haunch of Venison, London, 2011, unpaged).