AMMAN — With the places where they spent their childhood so close, yet tantalisingly out of reach, two artists turn their distance from their home in Iraq into a catalyst to express their longing for their country through intimate works of art.
Stepping into Ghassan Ghaib’s and Ahmed Al Bahrani’s exhibition “Nostalgia” at Jacaranda Images takes one on an emotionally charged journey in time and memories through the eyes of the artists.
The two artists’ lives in exile have only made their longing for Iraq more potent, enabling them to shape it into works of mixed media and sculptures of iron.
Ghaib summons images of people and places from Iraq and mixes them with bursts of intense colour to create powerful collages of mixed media.
In one work, pictures of people from the country’s history are juxtaposed with aerial views of Baghdad and arranged to form what looks like a part of a Snakes and Ladders board game.
The other side of the art piece, however, is darker in colour and less intelligible, in perhaps a visual contrast between the clarity of innocent childhood and the murkiness of the present.
Another artwork by Ghaib mixes the general view of Baghdad with old monochrome close-ups on the city’s buildings and one lonely resident as he looks on.
The past blends smoothly into the present, but at other times crashes into it in Ghaib’s works.
The artist gets creative with the material he uses, turning an old book into an artwork. The book is covered with the interweaving streets of Ghaib’s city.
The pages are soaked in black on one end and dark red on the other, while the middle section remains white but with clear signs that it has been read over and over again.
Bahrani’s iron sculptures represent tangible remnants of a childhood he still remembers fondly, with all its uncertainties and difficulties.
One sculpture represents the bicycles that he used to ride as a young boy on the streets of Iraq, but the roads are neither clear nor straight. They are entangled, twisted and incomplete, in a sign of the doubts clouding the future.
Another sculpture captures the details of a tree with its entwining and bent branches. But there is a chance for peace, as two doves are perched on top.
One politically charged sculpture shows a stack of fallen chairs, all incapable of overtaking the one large chair that remains above them all.
In a work of acrylic on canvas by Bahrani, a pitch black tree is superimposed on a white background. But there are spots of white making their way to spread through the tree’s blackness.
Together, the two artists compose a hymn to celebrate their country. Their views, however, are not blinded by romance; they are aware of their country’s flaws and perfections, embracing both unconditionally.
With Ghaib currently based in Amman and Bahrani working in Qatar, the two artists are in a state of constant longing for Iraq, to which they hope to return someday.
The artworks are on display until April 24.