The haunting works made by the painter Ahmed Alsoudani are born out of extreme states of violence. The artist grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, during the Iran-Iraq War and the First Gulf War, but he was forced to leave the country as a teenager after vandalizing a mural depicting Saddam Hussein.
His paintings, drawings and prints are laden with elements that evoke specific places and memories from his life in Western Asia. The macabre scenes and visceral forms also suggest violence in a more general sense, a universality accentuated by the lack of titles in much of Alsoudani’s oeuvre. His ghoulish figures loosely formed from exploded fragments seem to speak to the many forms of war, repression, dispossession, and disenfranchisement transpiring around the world.
There’s an unstable bust of his which is a favorite of mine… its parts sutured with snaking bands and secured with metal bolts resonating deep in my anti-war soul. The components appear to float against a dark, amorphous background. Yet rather than conveying some spectral fantasy, the artist’s forms appear fleshy and concrete,evocative of what he calls a “living memory,” something that strongly shapes current experience rather than being confined to the distant past. And on that note, I recommend that the reader glance at his exchange with Samuel Rowlett in 2012. [One must — as is the case with many artists and musicians and writers — make a distinction between the creator and the works.]
For here and now, though, I think it’s important to note how infrequently youngsters in school are exposed to the likes of Alsoudani and the works of counterparts like Otto Dix. The German painter’s representations of the disarticulated bodies of German soldiers after World War I served to inspire Alsoudani, I would imagine, his stylistic influences being quite obvious to me; works like Skin Graft.
Sure, once in awhile — once in a Blue Moon? — students are shown something like Goya’s nightmarish scenes from Los caprichos and Los desastres de la guerra, but… communicating the horror of war optimally rarely seems to be the aim of a given teacher. Never. [Pause.] No mainstream instructor wants to lose his or her job these days.
And that’s why art teachers generally look like a Francis Bacon self-portrait to me, disfigured by the mediocrity of middle class values, twisting their bodies, faces and souls… to keep our wars proliferating.
Truth be told, no child would join our armed services and no parent would allow such a career path to be considered if teachers taught The Truth.
Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.