Shakir Hassan Al Said

One of Iraq’s most-revered artists Shakir Hassan Al Said produced abstract artwork inspired by the principles of Islamic Sufism. The Samawah-born artist regarded artistic expression as an act of sacred contemplation, and he developed an art philosophy known as Al Bua’d Al Wahid, or One Dimension, representing the area between the visible world and the invisible realm of God. Al Said’s paintings and mixed-media works often sought to give a glimpse into this dimension. He believed contemplating the glory of God caused the personal self to disintegrate into the eternal one.

Al Said pursued a degree in social sciences at the Higher Institute of Teachers in Baghdad and in painting from the Institute of Fine Arts, later studying at Paris’ Académie Julien, the École des Arts Décoratifs and the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Taught by prolific Iraqi artist Jewad Selim, both artists founded Baghdad Modern Art group in 1951. Al Said inspired many artists in his generation to create a distinct Iraqi style that was simultaneously modern and traditional. Other than Sufism, Al Said’s art was rooted in Western modern thought, including structuralism, semiotics, deconstructionism, phenomenology and existentialist theory. His approach often toys with the sense of time, appearing ancient while containing elements, such as graffiti and splashes of paint, that bring it into the modern context.