Intersections of Mass and Color

Diverse Representations in Sculpture

BAGHDAD, 28 December — Ali Rasen, one of the well-known Iraqi sculptors, began his artistic journey in the 1990s. He held his first solo exhibition titled “Bronze Coats” in 1997 in Baghdad and is also a professor of sculpture art at the College of Fine Arts, University of Wasit.

Recently, in the Akad Hall in the Al-Karada area, Rasen presented his new solo exhibition titled “Intersections of Mass and Color,” which continues until the end of this month. Here is an interview with him on the sidelines of this event, concluding the year 2023.

Why this name “Intersections of Mass and Color,” which carries an academic reference?

This name is all about emotion and art. The academic aspect is also present in the naming considerations, combining sculpture and painting. This resulted in the name, where mass in the work intersects with the used colors. The works are about 30 pieces, some of which were completed 10 years ago related to a previous personal exhibition titled “After the War.” They represent faces after the American invasion of Iraq, some from memory and the ambiance of the war itself in 2003. Therefore, this exhibition is a continuation of the previous one I held in 2004. I replaced the bronze material used in that experience with “polyester resin” (fiberglass) because I needed to add color to the work.

There seems to be a reduction in holding personal exhibitions compared to focusing on group participations. Is this intentional, or are sculptors generally scarce in their exhibitions?

My production is in two directions. The first is to fill a void in a certain way. For example, the annual exhibition of the Association of Fine Artists is important, so I must participate in it every year with a work of an independent idea. However, the works I present in personal exhibitions are considered rare. In my personal exhibition “Chair,” held in Dar Al-Anda in Amman in 2005 and then in Madarat Hall in Baghdad in 2009, the foundation of this exhibition began before the events of 2003. It involves an intersection between two eras, the previous regime and the new one after the occupation. From 2005 to 2014, the year of the subsequent exhibition “Bronze Sculptures,” is a long period. I have my own special and high sensitivity in evaluating work, to the extent that I destroy many of my works after completing them. In this exhibition, I brought 30 works, of which I redid three, and I still review and scrutinize the remaining 27 works anew.

There are different representations of the human self and faces, as if we are before various themes and applications.

Some works have a political dimension and express political personalities. Others express me personally in multiple moods and representations. There are statues of Jawad Saleem and Ismail Fattah Al-Turk, as I consider them the founders of Iraqi sculpture. The rest are people from personal memory, all of them representing sparks in the imagination that transformed into these works.

Was the choice of the exhibition’s timing at the end of 2023 intended as a foundation for a new beginning?

The choice of timing was spontaneous. It came about during a session with the director of Akad Hall, Haider Hashem. I found my works ready for display and presentation to the followers in a personal exhibition. The idea of organizing the exhibition was proposed by Haider, and I liked it, and here it is being realized. I confidently say that I succeeded in this exhibition because I do not display my production without careful and thorough review of what I have accomplished. I am convinced that my works have an impact on the generation of young artists and contemporary artists.