Widely regarded as one of Iraq's Modern masters, Dia Al-Azzawi is unmatched in his ability to weave Iraqi folklore and ancient traditions into his sophisticated Modern works. Every single work by Azzawi is an intricate synthesis of traditional motifs and modern technique, a marriage between the past and present, which has captivated the attention of art collectors, enthusiasts and institutions alike.
Prior to completing his art education in 1964 at the Institute of Fine Arts, Azzawi had studied archaeology at the College of Arts, Baghdad; however, while his study of art was fruitful, it was limited in exposure. Consequently, he sought ancient artefacts from the Iraq Museum that had influenced his art since his early beginnings. In 1969 Azzawi became a founding member of the New Vision Group (al-Ru'yya al-Jadidah), which united artists through their ideology as a retort to the prevailing rigidity in the Iraqi art scene. The New Vision group was also a product of a need to articulate the effects of the tumultuous Arab world.
Azzawi's academic interest in archaeology led to the incorporation of Mesopotamian and ancient subject matter in his paintings. A testament to the artist's self-awareness, artistic skill and passion for the rich cultural heritage of Iraq, the present work titled A Mare for the Town and painted in 1970 is a modernist rendition of traditional Iraqi art with a superlative interplay of traditional symbolism. The composition is centred around an abstracted horse, a recurring motif in Azzawi's oeuvre, often a metaphor for the land or the state of Iraq as a lone and gallant horse on an onerous journey to reclaim its former glory that has been tarnished by conflict and political instability. The horse
stands above an ancient plough, denoting connection with the land.
The painting is also a showcase of Azzawi's inclination, especially early in his career, to use dusty colours to signify a connection with Iraqi history and roots; it was only later in his oeuvre that Azzawi began using vibrant colours and jagged planes. The curvilinear lines represent the deep tracks and erosion caused by the mighty Euphrates and Tigris rivers that delineated part of the 'cradle of civilisation'. Furthermore, the abstract, cubic and circular design in the periphery of the painting references the ancient cuneiform script used in Mesopotamia.
Iraqi history and culture have been at the core of Azzawi's oeuvre, which spans over fifty 50 years since the early 1960s. His works embody a sense of spirituality, historicity as well as an amalgamation of traditional iconography and modern technique, which reflect Azzawi's intention to create a unique interpretation of modern and contemporary art, which is grounded in Iraqi mythology and tradition. Today, the artist's works are held in prestigious private and public collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Mathaf, Doha, the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, Library of Congress, Washington DC, The World Bank, Washington, DC, the British Museum, London, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Tate Modern, London, the latter houses a monumental and seminal painting by the acclaimed Iraqi artist.