10 September 2017 - 25 September 2018

FOCUS: Works from Mathaf Collection is an ongoing series of solo exhibitions featuring artists from Mathaf Permanent Collection.

Shakir Hassan Al Said: The Wall

This exhibition looks at the progression of Shakir Hassan Al Said’s work from the early 1950s to the late 1990s, particularly the disappearance of the figure and landscape and the transition towards a more frontal dimension where texture and physicality replace figurative representations in the works.

Two key moments in the artist’s practice are highlighted, the first being his initial research on forms of representation and the invention of a new language departing from landscape to geometry and from body to form during the 1950s-70s. The second looks at his experimental use of materials and invention of an art vocabulary that introduced the principle of burning works. This act reveals the violence that leads to the destruction of the painting (the wall) engraved with signs of multiple civilisations, or the disappearance of memory that defines the surface, the one dimension. This practice was a response to events affecting the human condition, especially the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s as it became part of daily life, and the Gulf wars in the 1990s and 2000s following 9/11.

Shakir Hassan was a theorist and artist who actively engaged in teaching and learning from art. He considered the physicality of the work as a potential passage to a fantastic transgression of the one dimension, a concept he developed in a manifesto of the ‘One Dimension Group’ (al-Bu'd al-Wahid) that he co-founded with Jewad Selim and Jabra Ibrahim Jabra in 1971.

Al Said describes the physicality in his painting as exaggerated traces and scratched surfaces of walls and manuscripts. The process of reaching the wall as a texture and looking for an exit (exutoire) when making a hole in it seems to reflect a passage beyond the wall as an obstacle, especially in the years 1990s during his multiples residencies in Doha. The political and spiritual dimension of his work took a stronger meaning after the second war in Iraq following the American invasion. The wall represented on a surface as an artwork, fragmented through the process of burning attempts to open a possible future. The One-Dimension concept becomes a philosophy and a practice that lead to freedom of space and time together, prefiguring a more spiritual sense of existence.