Articels
 
Opening Ali Talib, Love and death, 14. 10. 2003- Den Haag

By: Ingrid Rollema*

Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
 


If I talk about art I will always emphasise that there are two components governing the field of art. In its essence arts always deals with life and death on one side, and love and hate on the other. All the other themes in art are deduced from these four components.

Ali made the essence of art in the same time his subject.
The two words, love and death are used in many ways. And all of us use our own connotation. If you use the word love and if you use the word death you see in the mirror of your soul something complete different than every one around you.
Nothing as personal as your own feeling of love, nothing as personal as using the word death in relation to your fear and personal losses.

What I feel in these paintings is that Ali Talib transformed his feelings of love and death in a very personal way by avoiding being personal. He transformed in the same painting the feeling of love to an abstraction that invites us to step into the painting.

In every painting you see how venerable live is. But in the confrontation with death there is always a transformation to another kind of existence.

Love is the energy that keeps us going and prevents us from dying.
By playing with love in the way you do, you are confronted with the awareness that you cannot die, you can only transform.

For me in very sensitive way Ali with the premises that love and dead are continues story. We can not escape and we can not win but we can fight goes and on. We can not escape and we can not win but we can loose. The only given thing is that we cannot stop being part of the game. You come back again, transformed and transparent and then again you start. You find something and you loose. Defenceless that is how I consider myself as I look to your paintings and that brings in my mind the philosophy of Edward Said who passed away some weeks ago.
If I look at your painting I feel myself confronted with the knowledge that haven and hell are in this word, here and now. It is totally by surprise that you find something good it is also it is totally by surprise if you are caught by black evil. Evil is not easy or superficial because there is a system, there is background and knowledge. All the paintings you see here can bring you back to old knowledge, ancient myth and believes. In every dimension we have the confrontation of love and death. Old times with the same issue, the same condition, the same very old respected rhythm for love and death.
But after you have stepped into the painting you start thinking. After you have seen the paintings you are part of the secret. Whatever you may do after, you know, you are involved, you’re not innocent anymore. And because of not being innocent you are responsible. In a very clever and sensitive way this paintings makes you part of what is going on, in the painting you can find the possible backgrounds.

These paintings tell me that in the end we are defenceless. The language of the paintings informs me that we are equal as humans but it reminds me that we are not equal in the game, and that makes me feel responsible.

Ali, thank you for your work and all your effort. We are proud to have you and your friends here as our guests. I like to give you some thing personal because I like to recognise you if I see you in another place in another time with another appearance in another world as another creature.

* Artist , Director Academy of Visual Arts- The Hague, The Nederlands

   
 
 
Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
   
   
 
Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
 
 
 
   
The Daemonic Presence Between Eros and Thanatos

By: Jabra I. Jabra*

Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
 
 
The profile of one of Ali Talib is constant motifs for nearly a quarter of a century, remains fraught with its suggestive mystery-fraught with the secrets of its tragedy, stressing its presence one way or another in so many paintings, until it takes hold of a whole canvas to itself, solitary, unique, holding within its scar-like lines an agony which insists on breaking out to us from its confines.

For many years, Talib's works have been visual elegies through which he plays variations on one of the basic themes of our times in a style akin to music: it vibrates in the mind long after its melodies have ceased, to remind us of the continuity of its passion and its beauty. In many of them there is a daemonic presence, not quite intelligible, not always entirely visible, but very much there, active against what is real and direct. Whenever the face and the mask figure on the canvas, it raises doubts as to which is the face and which is the mask.

In the artist's more recent work one senses a progress from the thorn and the wound towards the rose and the joy, partly indicated by his colours shifting from monochromes of green and blue to flaming reds and whites. Nevertheless, the spectator remains absorbed as ever in a strain and unresolved mystery, located somewhere between the conscious and the unconscious: it carries to him some of its tensions and revelations and enriches him with the artist's own experience of the sorrow and the joy emanating from abelated dominance of Eros, although it may well prove to be, after all, just one more seductive illusion.

In Ali Talib's paintings there is a repeated attempt to say what is almost impossible to articulate. Right from the start, a basic conflict, which seems to derive from the depths of the unconscious, activates his work, creating a tension symptomatic of all significant works of art, capable of multiplicity of suggestions and interpretations. His paintings skillfully tackle an experience insistent with its inner contradictions: evasive and recurrent, leaving its impact each time in certain forms on the canvas-and in our memory.

It is an opposition between Eros and Thanatos, between the principle of love and union and the principle of destruction and death, that haunts these works on the level of the ego and that of the other, achieving over the years greater symbolic intensity and greater disturbing power. The effect each time is analogous to that of tragic drama. As the artist continues to express the ineffably and mysterious in near monochromes perhaps borrowed from the tonality of dreams, he appears deliberately to envelope his inner scene of union and destruction, of love and death, in twilight tones which may be a feature of the agonized quest for a clarity that seems unforthcoming.

* Jabra I. Jabra is an outstanding Writer, Art Critic, Painter and Poet. The above article was published in (Al-Naqid) Magazine, London, No. 12, June 1989.

   
Ali Talib... And The Questioning Situation

By: Abdulrahman Munif

Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
 
 


This is a part of a case study about the artist Ali Talib, done by Mr. Abdulrahman Munif, one of the greatest novelists in the Arab world.

Painters, who, through their artwork throw questions to the viewer, are few. Usually the artwork gives answers to questions or fulfills a desire or ambition. in other words it is an answer, not a question. This is what most artists do; thus the audience becomes habituated. The artist strives to make his/her artwork as complete as possible, strives for perfection and to make it strong in giving its message. When the artist feels some doubt or upset that the message of his/her artwork might not reach the viewer, he/she does not hesitate to give the artwork a meaningful title. Mostly the title should be resounding and effective. To ensure that the viewer does not read the artwork wrongly.

This is the usual; either the questions take the place of the answers or part of the circle is broken to let out a feeling of uncertainty or puzzle. It is an unusual matter, it might leave doubts, and if bit happens, (it rarely happens), it leaves exclamation marks. Behind this must inevitably, be an inability of the artist and a lack in his/her tools.

In this way, the viewer assumes from the artwork that this is the way the artist does it. It is an answer and not a question. Somehow a sure and perfect work, especially when the matters interfere and are mixed up. It is not easy to accept the artwork as a question, as it is not possible to be flexible when it turns to be probable or puzzling. When this happens, in any manner, a lot of people will see it negatively and consider it as a lack of knowledge or qualification; exactly as the picture of the father or the teacher seems to the children when he shows his ignorance or being not capable of doing a certain job; the children see their father or teacher as a symbol of knowledge and a symbol of power to face anything!

Laying out his/her product as a question, or considering it as one possibility among many, puts his/her self in a difficult position; first, he/she may be misunderstood, then becomes vulnerable, especially of his/her qualifications. If this comes in parallel with some interpretation or justification, the question becomes more complicated. It needs what it lacks. It means to show the positive sides which usually hide in the crowd of the ordinary and the hackneyed- most of the people consider art as an easy rest, responding to some needs which might fail them by other ways, including the exchange, or replacement, as with the unimportant issues that you can compensate, or you do not need them at all.

This introduction might be necessary when talking about Ali Talib. This painter who was born in 1944 in Basra, the second biggest city in Iraq, graduated from the Baghdad Fine Arts Academy in the sixties, he continued his studies and art project in Cairo in the mid seventies. This artist represents and reduces the questioning situation as we mentioned that he seems puzzled, searching and questioning. These characteristics which distinguish him from the others since the beginning, made him different to some extent. By the time these characteristics became inseparable, he turned to be a symbol to the condition that demands reading and meditation, because it is a healthy condition; it transforms the viewing of the artwork to re-participation in its construction. It gives to our relationship with the art a serious which does not only generates the real enjoyment, but also leads us into a (narrow path) of experimenting and participation, and lets us live up, with the artist, the stages of development that the artwork goes through.

To enter the world of the artist, we must consider his special nature and his personality. Then the historical stages he lived through, and what effect those stages of disappointment and rich experience, especially in Iraq, his first homeland, had on him and what he ended up with as a result. These atmospheres, by their veritable varying effects, have composed his mood, viewing the sorrow from close and his feelings of catastrophe as he said. Basra, his first city could be a factor; this is only an assumption that needs to be studied. Born in this particular city, during that particular time, he first faced an upset world. Especially as the city is a (window) to the sea, which means, on the other hand, that it marks the end of the desert and the beginning of the wide world of water, thus the significance of desire to discover the other, to challenge and reach very far places. Adding the historical memory, as it shown in the wonderful stories and adventures inherited from the old people, then the consequence becomes a call to travel and adventure, and with them to question the world beyond these waters. The characteristics of the city of Basra interpret the close similarities of its people - a city that leaves its prints, its effects on the people, their behavior and their way of looking at life.

As the response of the individuals are different according to a limited number of influences, so, as much as the inhabitants of a city have the same characteristics, they are different in other ways, as if they are from several far away cities. That will lay more than one question presenting answers, and makes the cities one and several at the same time.

This might be one reason why Ali Talib, especially when he had finished his studies and left Baghdad to go back to his home town Basra, repeats the way of dealing with and discussing the art and thinking issues of his city. He developed his own special way, not only through staying true to style and insisting on it, work after work, and stage after stage, but through the research of a characteristic or a certain spiritual responses to the questions he lays.

These influences and atmospheres might enlighten a corner of the artistic journey of Ali Talib. As much as he wants to be near the general visual art atmosphere, he wants to walk beside the general way as some of the art critics said about him that he was the only artist of his generation who stayed on keeping his insatiability. This means, exactly, that he is always searching for some thing new, he is not with the ideal and he does not trust being dedicated to one style or frame through which to get known. He said as an answer to a question: "All that I have produced in the past is a dead part of me", because he is still researching and trying. He did not reach yet, if there is something like reaching! He says about himself: "I hate to repeat my self, I become without feelings of life, except when I search for the new".

On the other hand, the sixties were a stage of turmoil and fighting, with the appearance of new thoughts, new (isms) and styles in the fields of art and sciences. Furthermore, it was a stage of discovering and clarifying the regression of the Arab nation, of the long term lack and disability that existed in this reality. There was a strong emphasis on the importance of change, of the turning to face these challenges - on all levels, thinking, concepts, style and class - that demanded a revolution in the different fields, the art being one of them.

In this atmosphere, Ali Talib graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts. The political revolution starting its countdown, more than one group of people started to appear in different fields, searching for solutions and new horizons that could satisfy their ambitions and hopes. Thus Ali Talib reached, with some of his friends, to create a group, the (Renewal Group) alongside with other groups created by other artist.

The reasons to form the Renewal Group were dissatisfaction with what was there in the prevailing reality, the search for the new, and establish contacts with the international art movement. The reasons during the first stage were negative, the group agreed about rejection. Each one of them had his own way and style, his own development, different from others; something that became clear later, before long, either out of the development of each one of the group or the time that society lived in.

If we precisely consider Ali Talib, we find that his relationship with this society was weakened since he left Baghdad returning to his hometown Basra. From the realistic scenery that characterized his style during a certain period, he returned towards reducing the figures, coming near the abstract, in his special way. Beside the questions that he laid to himself, and the search for the answers, the experimental was what characterized his work during this period. The atmosphere of upsets and puzzlements, a stamp of his work, remained clear.

The time he lived in Egypt was important in that he was enriched and gained new subjects, new additions, either in viewing the colours or in the way of dealing with the surface of the canvas of the artwork, or the relationships that compose the elements of the artworks. It is no secret that he was influenced by the Pharaoh's art, such as the huge sizes.

After the (head) or besides it, Ali chose another subject, to be the material for a new exhibition: woman and man. Though this kind of subject represents fertility and continuing with the other, leaving the isolation and individuality, we discover that the language that Ali Talib reaches is unstable, not in the expression but in the indication. We discover that this duality paradoxically expresses deeper isolation and long distance from the other. When Ali becomes sure about these two, man and woman, as a consequence to what he has collected, he is forced to take a refuge towards easing the sorrow, to use the mask to make the indication tougher and more provocative. Justifying his use of the mask he says: "Some things die before its time. That's why I hide; extinction is my obsession". That determines to a certain extent parts of his artistic choice, in dealing with or expressing the subject. Hence regarding the subject of, woman and man, he explains:
"I forbid my characters the enjoyment of looking, to avoid turning the visual memory to a disaster", because nothing creates satisfaction to lead to it, death or rather annihilation, surrounding the human being, from all around, and all that the human being can do in his/her life journey is to leave scratches of some indications of him/her self, to show that he/she tried, dreamed Éand vanished!

Death, though he never names it directly, is strongly present in Ali Talib's art, as well as the silent position, which is closer to dumbness, which overshadows the characters inside the artwork, and forbids any dialogue between them, even on a minimum level; not only because the looking between them do not meet, but they run away from each other, as if they had a sinful feeling, that the meeting of the eyes is a disaster better to be avoided.

When the artist loads his/her artwork with a sufficient amount of thinking, he/she must do so without leaving his/her identity as an artist. More than that, he/she should give his/her artwork a significant and adequate title. The positive signs characterize Ali Talib and make him demanding all the time, dissatisfied, as he says, "the idea of the complete work disgusts me". Though he feels thrilled when he finishes the artwork, but that does not last for long, "... I feel delighted when I finish the work, but my happiness quickly disappears". Because the challenge is still going on, the idea of competition does not leave him, and he is not ready to give it up, because "the unpainted board is part of my inner ritual and I find myself bonded to it more than the artwork that I have finished".

As I mentioned before, the artwork of Ali Talib does not give itself to the audience quickly and easily. It demands a dialogue, may be strength; some times it becomes more difficult than that, not to create improvised difficulties, but the matter in its self is complicated, as the viewer who has stylish education can estimate what to be seen in Ali's art, because anyone who likes to enter this world must choose it alone, without guidance. Those who keep the artificial and some expressive terms, assuming that they can cross the difficulties, will face additional difficulties that will not let them reach there.

   
 
Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
 
   
 
Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
   
   
A Turmoil Under a Quiet Surface

By: May Mudhaffar*

Arabic: 
01 02 03 04
 
English:   
01 02 03 04 
 
top
 
 
A Turmoil Under a Quiet Surface By: May Mudhaffar* The initial attempts of Ali Talib (b. 1944) while he was still a student at the College of Fine Arts, revealed the fact that he has always been trying to reach an appropriate language capable of reflecting his inner world, of capturing the turmoil underlying his quiet appearance, of assuming the shape of the drama taking place in there. No wonder then that Ali Talib found symbolic representation quite suitable for containing both his intellectual and visual aspirations.

In a special interview, the artist confided to me one of his little secrets that I believe casts much light on his entire experience in art. He said that drawing, to him, while still a young boy in the primary school, stemmed from his very need of expressing something within him. He took from the basement walls of the family house, a place on which to draw his images shaped informs and figures in order to inflict them thereafter such anger, fear and suppression, which he had suffered as a result of family hard restrictions. It was his uncle's and not his father's superiority that he suffered most. This explains the fact that the art of Ali Talib was originated from his very need for creating a balance between the external and the internal world. His paintings, therefore, grew out of such needs to express the unspeakable agonies and frustrated potential.

Born and grew up in Basra, Iraq, Ali Talib spent his studying years there until he finished the secondary school. By that time the Academy of Fine Arts (now called the College of Fine Arts) had just been opened and the artists found a new way of acquiring academic classes in art. Ali Talib was among the first group to join the Academy in the early 1960s.

The art milieu during the 1960s was undergoing a premonition of an outbreak, which resulted in a tremendous step towards modernism. It was due to the fact that in the sixties a new generation of artists had just returned home after studying abroad in various countries. In addition, the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad made contract with two Polish professors and one Yugoslav, who, at the same time, were competent painters devoted entirely to abstract painting. Therefore they were quite considerate with regards to orienting the interest of their students towards new trends in art.

Ali Talib was among those students who found himself extremely enthusiastic in breaking out with conventional means of expression. Therefore, he, with other colleagues formed a group called the "Innovators" and they held their first exhibition in Baghdad in 1965. In the following year (1966)(while they were still students) they held their second and last exhibition also in Baghdad. The works exhibited clearly indicated their adherence to modern styles. They were also concerned in developing their technicalities through finding a new media and delivering themselves from being confined to any particular media. Thus most of their composition were characterized with either symbolic contents or pure abstractions.

The early works of Ali Talib tended to reflect detailed elements of different nature referring more or less to his own conception of reality in its apparent and hidden aspects. The mystery that lied beneath his creatures, forms, and things was not simply reflected in the tonalities of his translucent monochromes but also in the skeptical quality characterizing them. This dreamlike representations which Ali Talib used to show in his paintings during the period that followed his graduation in 1966 lasted until the mid of the 1970s where he used to live in Basra.

In Basra he formed a group called "The Shadow" with other colleague artists there; the members of the group who believed that art is a reflection of reality; art is the shadow of reality, held their exhibition in Baghdad in 1970, but the group did not last long. Soon Ali Talib found himself out and held one man show in Baghdad in 1976 where a radical change in his style seemed to appear displaying a completely new approach towards performing his expressive language of symbolic nature. Although his painting maintained its basic character as a work motivated from an inner world reflecting the intensity of his mind as well as emotions, his new work has shown there revealed a more organized setting quite economic in content as well as colour.

In his exhibition of 1976 the impact of drama seemed to assume theatrical form. Faces, masked or deformed were reflected in an atmosphere of stage design where the light allowed the spectator to get involved with the intriguing characters that emerged form the darkness of their surroundings. Such approach remained to be one of the basic characteristics in the art of Ali Talib and although his paintings vary in their degree of intensity, they always hold back their own mystery and it is in this ambiguity that the charm of his art lays.

In his recent works, his figures seem to be reflected otherwise, they appear in a spacious surrounding, where extensive plains infinitely move in the depth. Now a balance has been maintained between the volume, represented usually in the human figure, against an unlimited space. The theatrical scene moved outdoor and the colours assuming more eloquent nature, serve to ascertain the emotional intensity.

The young boy, who used to draw his fears and sufferings on the wall, is still performing the same act. His canvas holds his unspeakable agonies and intellectual concerns yet it maintains his secrets allowing simply a small part of it to reveal the rest is underlined deep in the conscious of both the artist and the spectator.

* May Mudhaffer is a Poet and Art Critic. The article was published in (Gilgamesh) Magazine, Baghdad, No. 3, 1988.