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Ahmed Alsoudani and Encountering The Grotesque in War and Conflict

‘Paint drips and blots are a recurring motif of many of the works on view. Intercepting the composition with this painterly mark-making, Alsoudani adds further complication to his disordered scenes, while highlighting the role of the human hand in the creation of violence.’

Iraqi-American artist Ahmed Alsoudani has long engaged with the politics of painting warfare due to his personal encounters of fleeing the Iraq war via Syria and settling in the United States where he now lives and works. His works capture through paint, acrylic, charcoal and pencil, a surreal representation of a fragmented whole. Not-quite deformed, but neither fully formed either, body parts are unsettling to look and at best described as splicing of mutilated flesh entwined with mechanical prostheses.

For his first solo at Marlborough Contemporary, London, Alsoudani presents a new body of work that is more sombre but in keeping with his now signatory painterly fragmentation of imageries and ideas. A limited colour palette marks a departure from the previous series of vibrant and bright colours with expressionistic mark making in coloured pencil – a prominent feature of these recent paintings. In Couple (2017), two figures are indistinguishable and conjoined, as if mummified in an embrace whilst framed by the chaos that engulfs their fragmented bodies. A work that is both intimate and of torturous beauty at the same time. Doorway (2017), on the other hand, depicts a ghostlike form bursting through a doorframe that is unable to contain its shape and is barely perceptible among the explosion of forms. These paintings fuse the human with animal, or some other unimaginable combination as if one wakes up from a traumatic event only to discover that the wholesome and intact body has been somehow transformed into something unidentifiable, mutilated and dismembered.

Alsoudani turbulent paintings depict a disfigured tableau of war and atrocity. They draw on personal experiences of conflict and images of violence, particularly as they mark, maim and defile bodies but also evoke wider universal experiences of conflict and human suffering. These paintings entwine and distort in vivid, surreal landscapes whilst also capture transient moments between the living and the dead. He continues to remind us that personal histories of conflicts and wars still manage to display universal themes of struggle, despair and destruction. A timely subject for the present as we continue to negotiate the grotesque remnants of ongoing global conflicts.

Ahmed Alsoudani solo exhibition is on view at Marlborough Contemporary, London until 11 November 2017

by Jareh Das


Featured image: Alsoudani, Pit, 2016, acrylic, charcoal, colour pencil on canvas,195.6x444cm

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