Nazar Yahya

Iraq b.1963

Themes of war, wandering, and expatriation are evident in the work of Iraqi painter, mixed media and installation artist Nazar Yahya. He creates deeply textured pieces that tend to rely on dim colours, such as sandy browns and oily blacks, as well as construction materials and other objects to reflect the deterioration prevalent in a war-torn environment.

Composed by layering different media on fabrics, the two works seen here form a poetic homage to the Tigris river: one of Iraq’s most famous landmarks and the sole subject of his 2010 collection, O’ Tigris, from which these pieces came. A popular choice of subject for Iraq’s first generation of landscape painters, the Tigris in Yahya’s work is abstracted into icons of maritime life: fish, fish hook and man. In each piece, we witness traces of the relationship between life and the river, a relationship under siege today as the river no longer sustains but serves as an informal burial ground for victims of Iraq’s current violence. Through a strikingly condensed visual language, Yahya suggests a parallel between the overlapping layers of materiality and the river’s own surface and layered history.

Yahya, now settled in Houston, graduated from Baghdad’s Academy of Fine Arts with a degree in painting in 1987. He has held solo and group shows in Iraq, Lebanon, the United States, Britain, and across the Gulf Arab region, as well as participating in the Asian Art Biennale. His work is held in public and private collections throughout the Arab world, Europe, and the U.S.