'Invisible Beauty' aims to make artists currently working in and outside of Iraq visible. It deals with identity and politics, with memory and loss, with courage as a form of beauty.

Latif Al Ani
Latif Al Ani (b. 1932) is considered the founding father of Iraqi photography and his extensive documentary career spans from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, when it became impossible to photograph in public due to the increasingly authoritarian atmosphere of the Saddam regime and the Iran-Iraq War. A duality of thinking makes both modernising trends and the retention of ancient traditions themes of Al Ani’s work, and the Pavilion exhibition focuses on works from the early period of his career. 
Akam Shex Hadi
Akam Shex Hadi (b. 1985) represents a later generation of Iraqi photography and his staged, symbolic works have seen him participate in photography festivals across Asia and the Middle East. His work, along with that of Haider Jabbar, is concerned with the rise of Isis and the refugee crisis. He has created a new work for the Pavilion that consists of 28 photographs. A recurrent motif in the series is an unwinding thread, which resembles a snake but is revealed to be the Isis flag, a continuous reminder of its ensnaring qualities. Shex Hadi also presents a series of aerial photographs depicting what appears to be a large floor clock, except that the digits are not in their expected positions. A prostrate figure representing a hand of the clock makes the works a rumination on human capitulation to time, a kind of memento mori. 
Rabab Ghazoul
Rabab Ghazoul (b. 1970) also responds to her particular geographical relationship to Iraq in her work. Based in Wales, Ghazoul has produced a new video work for the Pavilion that takes the Chilcot Inquiry as its point of departure. Ghazoul’s work investigates our relationship with political and social structures and part of this new work is an inventory of official testimonies about the Iraq War, newly spoken by anonymous British citizens. This aspect of the work highlights three of the exhibition’s key themes – art as an act of cataloguing, the correlation between the moment that a work is made and its formal qualities and ideas about what constitutes community. Ghazoul, who is the only female artist on display, has had several solo exhibitions in Cardiff and has participated in numerous group exhibitions throughout Wales and the rest of Europe. 
Haider Jabbar
Painter Haider Jabbar (b. 1986) is showing a series of watercolour portraits reflecting on the Isis crisis and the numerous victims it has claimed. These works are shocking, often brutal, renditions of the fates of young men who have died in the conflict. The men are identified only by case numbers and Jabbar, who considers himself part of a generation of young men who have had their lives needlessly ruined by decades of conflict in Iraq, intends to make 2,000 of these works. Jabbar is himself a refugee, now living and working in Turkey with the support of the Ruya Foundation. 
Salam Atta Sabri
Salam Atta Sabri (b.1953) has worked extensively in arts administration in Iraq and abroad but despite training as a ceramicist and drawing extensively, he has never shown his drawings in public. He produced some 300 drawings between 2012 and 2015 that he has never exhibited, of which more than 100 are on display at the Pavilion. These intensely personal works exhibit the experience of an artist striving to create under the shadow of a crumbling arts infrastructure. Atta Sabri returned to Baghdad in 2005 after having lived in the US and Jordan for 16 years, and his drawings can be understood as a diary in which the artist addresses the existential tragedy he undergoes returning to his native city. 
Traces of Survival: Drawings by Refugees in Iraq Selected by Ai Weiwei
The exhibition is accompanied by a display of drawings made by refugees in northern Iraq. In December 2014 Ruya launched a campaign to provide drawing materials to adult men and women in refugee camps. Ruya visited Camp Shariya, Camp Baharka and Mar Elia Camp and over five days the Foundation collected 546 submissions, including drawings, poetry and prose. A selection of these drawings are on display. The submissions present incredibly powerful responses to life within the refugee camps. A depiction of tanks and aircraft returning fire on each other was drawn by a forty-year-old man carrying the caption, ‘Our people have only lived amongst wars and destruction,’ whilst another image depicts an isolated figure in a flooded refugee camp who petitions, ‘Save us from drowning. I am Iraqi.’ By contrast, other drawings depict life before the refugee crisis, including a shining depiction of Mosul before Isis took control and a depiction of a traditional Yazidi festival. A number of these images have been selected by Ai Weiwei for a major book published to coincide with the Biennale. Proceeds from the book will go back to those who provided the content.

This work was drawn by a 41-year-old man, depicting his city of Mosul which he fled when Isis took over. The caption translates as: ‘Beloved Mosul. We will be back God willing.’

An 18-year-old school girl depicts her best friend who she saw dead and bloodied after being having been raped on Mount Sinjar. At the time this drawing was made, her friend was still unburied.

This is a drawing of the camp the man now lives in. It depicts the camp flooded, including himself and others calling out, 'Save us from drowning. I am Iraqi.'

A pomegranate tree in the garden of an old Yezidi man forced to flee his home when Isis attacked Mount Sinjar. He recalls in great detail the day that Isis attacked. This tree represents home for him.

Credits: Story

The Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq commissioned Philippe Van Cauteren (artistic director, S.M.A.K.) as curator, and organized the exhibition ‘Invisible Beauty’ with S.M.A.K. (Museum for Contemporary Art, Ghent, Belgium) as co-producer, and Nuova Icona as local commissioner.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google