Waleed Arshad

               Navigating the Space between Home and Exile

Artist, Waleed Arshad

 

Through his work, Iraqi-born artist Waleed Arshad, one of Iraq's most renowned contemporary painters records the dichotomy of navigating the space between home and exile.    The artist's provocative work brilliantly juxtaposes imagery and symbols of waiting such as a stoplight to convey the toll of war and its aftermath of waiting on the people of Iraq

Displacement has been an unfailing feature of recent Iraqi history. During the last 30 - 40 yrs, Iraqi civilians fled their homes compelled by war, uprisings & ethnic cleansing & systematic forced resettle-ment. Today it is not that Iraqis do not want to return home, it is that many cannot due to targeting or continued instability. Exile is no easier, asylum policies are often characterized by ambivalence. The process can be one of disorientation, disqualification & dis- integration leaving one stark questions of, "Who am I?", "Who are We?" Loss of identity, control of one's environment & uncertainty of future compounds the situation,

 Waleed Arshad's gripping portrayal through his artwork of his and his people's navigating the space between home and exile is disturbing yet hopeful.  

Now living in exile in the United States after being targeted for his work, Arshad reflects, "I have to feel myself as a human being, and I can't be a real human being if I have to declare whether I am Shiite or Sunni."

From the early days of my artistic career, the message I wanted to convey was clear: to depict the consequences of oppression and exploitation, which have constituted the circumstances under which I have lived my entire  life. In later years my view of the world has become more complex and I have chosen simpler depictions but at the same time universal forms of expression; a framework that encompasses all, from a adolescent's first attempts to communicate to the most refined forms of art and architecture.  For me, the ultimate task for the artist is to give his artwork its own existence, independent of the artist himself.  I am not a writer for he who writes uses a pencil and words, while I use color, lines and forms. However, we both want to awaken the unconscious within. We both seek to answer the fundamental question of ''why do we exist?'' for myself, we exist to create, and we live for all that which our art is about. Art is a language in constant flux, at all times the artist must know what it is he creates and why he does it.  Ultimately, art can speak for itself and live on without the artist himself.'

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