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First UK solo exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints by Athier opens in London
Man of War 12, 2013. 190 x 175 cm. Acrylic on canvas.
LONDON.- Edge of Arabia Projects and Ayyam Gallery present Man of War, the first UK solo exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints by London- based Iraqi-British artist, Athier. Renowned for his iconic style that draws on a range of influences, from European Modernism to contemporary Iraqi art, Athier’s striking new body of work explores notions of fluidity and the circum- stances in which we become detached from human destruction, themes with profound resonance in recent Iraqi history.

Athier left Iraq before the first Gulf War in 1990 and has divided his life since then between London and Paris. His works reflects his past, with each canvas a deft and imaginative integration of motifs, which include Mesopotamian and Assyrian symbolism, figurative abstraction and Islamic geometry. Elsewhere there are echoes of a pre-revolutionary Iraq, testament to the powerful and enduring sense of exile and nostalgia, which suffuses so much of Athier’s work.

The central symbol throughout this new series of works is the Portuguese Man of War, a highly sophisticated ‘colonial’ organism, often mistaken for a jel- lyfish, which is made up of many separate parts incapable of independent survival. This creature exists without a central brain or what we would call thought. Yet it has perfected the ability to hunt, kill and destroy. Like a jellyfish, its movement appears intuitive, its abiotic form collapsing inwards and pushing outwards, creating the tenuous expansion and release that propels it through the water. In Athier’s paintings, this fluid movement is broken up and distorted by a rigid structure which traps a diversity of life within its trailing tentacles. Sub- verting the concept of this marine life-form is a reflection of Athier’s experience of watching warfare in the Middle East from his position of exile in the West. His dense, painterly compositions, replete with human teeth, hands, eyes and pockets of blood cells, echo both the kinetic energy of an explosion and the organic form of the Man of War, always on the move, homing in on its target, stealthily and with precision.

The son of renowned Iraqi architect and artist, Ali Mousawi and Maysaloun Faraj respectively, Athier Mousawi (b.1982) and his approach to painting can be traced to a respect for the rigidity of bold Arab architecture with the colour and vibrancy of Iraqi painting. Having studied his MA in illustration at Central Saint Martins in London, Athier’s attention to the minute and narrative began here. Upon moving to Paris, the spiritual home of Modernism, Athier’s style of painting began to combine all aspects Modernism, architecture, illustration with his strong Iraqi influences. Athier currently lives and works between Paris, London and Istanbul. A keen advocate of art education, he has led art workshops in refugee camps in Beirut, Istanbul, Amman and Jarash (2012), and throughout London as The National Portrait Gallery's 'Chasing Mirrors' artist in residence (2011) and British Museum artist in residence 2007-2009. Previous solo exhibitions include: Ayyam Gallery, Beirut (2013), Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, Dubai (2012, 2011); and The Empire Project, Istanbul (2012). Selected group shows include: Traffic Gallery, Dubai (2012); National Portrait Gallery, London (2011); The Royal Academy, London (2011); Al Mansouriyah Foundation, Paris (2010-2012) and British Museum, London (2007-2009).

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