Untitled, 2010, is a large-scale abstract painting by Iraqi artist Ali Talib. It depicts a captivating scene that has a celestial feel. The painting’s background reveals blotches and crater-like discs of thick impasto paint ranging from beige white, to dusty gray and ochre tones. In the foreground, a large parabolic segment painted in shimmering sliver grey occupies much of the painting’s left side. Little golden impasto dots scattered throughout the square-shaped canvas lend luminosity to the work as a whole. The picture reminds us of the moon’s surface, usually covered with dead volcanic rocks, impact craters, and lava flows.
Against this ‘celestial’ background, an irregular trapezoidal shape floats horizontally along the central part of the painting. It consists of collaged, cut-out paper washed with red and pink acrylic paint applied in rigorous broad brushstrokes. Some visible pieces of paper, beneath the paint, are striped in yellow, pink, and green, while others are soaked in gold paint with numerical values registered on them.
One would imagine the abstracted trapezoidal shape as that of a ‘human body’, especially that a black disc touched with golden yellow lies adjacent to it, to the right. Seemingly a ‘head’. The mysterious figure lies perpendicular to the grey parabolic segment, reminiscent of a volcanic rock on the lunar surface.
Many colorful small ‘celestial’ discs, in red, green, blue, and yellow, also executed with thick impasto paint, align horizontally parallel to the ‘human body’. One remarkable large disc painted with impastoed gold, rapid red brushstrokes, and colorful spotted dots rests on the ‘human body’ near the ‘head’. Another, medium in size, painted in blue-green and gold, infiltrates the silver parabolic segment – inviting life to the ‘lunar rock’. Those colorful discs add playfulness to an otherwise mysterious picture.
Ali Talib’s artistic practice is distinguished by innovation. He was one of the founding members of the Innovationists art movement, or Al-Mujaddidoun in Arabic. The Innovationists advocated experimentation in art and sought new horizons. Talib’s work, in specific, is driven by a quest for creative expression, resulting in semi-abstract forms that captivate viewers with their enigmatic quality, prompting a deeper examination of the work rather than offering an immediate meaning.
Talib’s central theme addresses the complexities of human emotions. He usually explores the hidden depths of the psyche through imagery that blurs the boundaries between familiar reality and a dream-like state. Untitled, 2010, presents an unresolved mystery coupled with optimism. The artwork subtly hints at human presence or activity in the vast universe or an imagined moon. The moon itself is a source of hope. It is associated with birth, growth, and renewal and is a source of light essential to migration and navigation.
When asked about Untitled, 2010, in an interview, during which time he was finalizing the painting, Talib explained, “Such work is like a journey, a promenade. It is a source of relief, which helps me overcome the difficulties of daily life. And, most importantly, it is experimentation of artistic techniques, materiality, color, form, and composition.”
Certainly, Talib has skillfully combined formal and textural elements in Untitled, 2010. The work creates a sense of illumination and evokes awe and wonder in the viewer. The impastoed brushwork adds a rough texture reminiscent of an inhabited terrain and enhances a tactile quality that elicits a range of emotions, from curiosity to contemplation.
Overall, Untitled, 2010, is a captivating depiction of nature and the human experience. Ali Talib’s use of muted backgrounds and vibrant foregrounds, textured surfaces, and collaged elements creates a visually striking image reflecting human life’s complex emotions. The experience of viewing Talib’s paintings is profoundly personal and emotional, as viewers are invited to reflect on their own experiences of the human condition.