Dalloul Art Foundation
NEDIM KUFI NEDIM KUFI

NEDIM KUFI, Iraq (1962)

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Bio

Written by Nathalie Bsat

Born in Baghdad in 1962, Nedim Kufi is an Iraqi multimedia visual artist. Several years after graduating from the Baghdad Institute of Fine Arts with a BA in etching in 1985, the 29-year-old artist fled the First Gulf War and settled in Amman. Here, he shared a studio with Rafa Nasiri, his professor and friend; Nasiri had studied printmaking in China, and the novel techniques he had learned as a student had an evident influence on Kufi. In 1995, he relocated to Utrecht, Netherlands, where he worked as a graphic designer and later completed his studies in Graphic Design and Multimedia at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) in 2002. 

Following his postgraduate education at HKU, Kufi’s work began to expand its conceptual dimensions. While many Iraqi artists of his generation endured a wartime shortage of art supplies and shifted their practices accordingly towards found objects and non-traditional materials, Kufi’s ability to leave Iraq at the start of the war prevented such restrictions from impacting his work. Indeed, the opposite was true for the artist, whose exile granted him access to media and resources that were unavailable to his peers back home. The series Absence (2010) exemplifies Kufi’s complicated relationship to exile. In this mournful collection of images, Kufi juxtaposes pairs of nearly identical photographs from his childhood – “nearly,” that is because he has digitally removed himself from one. Per the artist’s description, this practice “expresses the disconnection between the home of [his] childhood and that of [his] expatriation,” evoking a sense of haunting emptiness to convey the pain of deracination. At the same time, however, the technology Kufi uses in this series is itself an indication of exile’s silver lining; when this was made, Photoshop was unavailable in a war-torn Iraq, and the piece, therefore, came to fruition thanks to media and available resources. 

Kufi created Absence by digitally manipulating images that were created by his father using a red-box camera. He took a similar strategy in Dis-Orient (2013), but instead of removing elements from found photographs, he added them. Dis-Orient features images from a book by Dutch photographer Frank Scholten, who photographed the lives of Palestinians in the 1930s. Kufi discovered the book by chance in a second-hand store, and, thumbing through it, found that its previous owner had left flowers pressed and dried between its pages. The artist was moved by this cultural juxtaposition, and digitally transposed pictures of these real Dutch flowers onto Scholten's images in order to preserve it. In the resulting images, Palestinian bodies are framed by the perception of anonymous Dutch readers, simultaneously affirming the Orientalist notion of 'the Other' and complicating it through the evocation of intimate human relationships. In both Absence and Dis-Orient, Kufi explores the distance between moments in time, contemplating what can be lost and gained in the interstices between the past and the present. 

Kufi’s work almost always makes creative use of technology, often mixing digital, photographic, and manual means of reproduction in a single piece. His 2018 series Eden, for instance, comprises both charcoal drawings and oil paintings based on photographs. Though the images are richly textured by the medium in which they are created, many maintain compositional and tonal similarities to their source pictures, immediately recalling old black-and-white photos or distorted photocopies thereof. At the same time, Kufi makes ample use of earthy materials such as henna, coal, and soap. The artist approaches his works with a certain spirituality, almost ritualistically engaging with repetition, grids, and patterns in a way that recalls the use of geometry to unify and harmonize Islamic architecture and decorative arts. Islamic geometric principles also make frequent appearances in the artist’s digital work. His 2017 exhibition Virtuality illustrates the artist’s facility in yet another medium: animation. Virtuality is a study of self-image through social media and the different masks built by individuals on a virtual platform in order to achieve psychological satisfaction. Upon observation of social media sites, the artist recognized a set of criteria by which people operate in this virtual society. Kufi built upon these criteria in two short graphic animations, through which the artist emphasizes how disconnected people are from each other in reality despite the proliferation of virtual connections. 

Nedim Kufi continued his education with a secondary MA in design, which he earned from artEZ in Enschede, Netherlands in 2012. The artist currently lives in the Netherlands, where he works both in fine art and graphic design.

Sources

“Nedim Kufi on Memory, Forgetting and Naivete.” Ruya Foundation For Contemporary Culture In Iraq. April 08, 2016. Accessed February 21, 2018. https://ruyafoundation.org/en/2014/11/nedim-kufi-on-memory-forgetting/.

“Nedim.” Nedim-Projects. Accessed February 21, 2018. http://www.nedimkufi.com/projects.html.

Faruqi, Samar. Art in Iraq today. Milano: Skira, 2011.

Wilson-Goldie, Kaelen. “The alchemy of Nedim Kufi.” The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Accessed February 27, 2018. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/ArticlePrint.aspx?id=97028&mode=print.

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CV

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2019

Eden, Mark Hachem Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon

2018

Sneak Peek, Artist Residency, Macam museum, Aalita, Lebanon

2017

Verticality, Dar Alanda, Amman, Jordan

2015

Identity, Imaar, Dubai. UAE
Habibi Project, Amersfoort, Netherlands

2014

The Perfumer, Al Bareh Art Gallery, Manama, Bahrein

2011

TAZ Potsdam, Berlin, Germany
20 seasons a day, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait

2010

AB Gallery, Switzerland

2009

The Moon Follows Us, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait

2008

Soap & Silence, Galerie La Fontaine, Manama, Bahrain

2007

The Manuscript, Lines Art Gallery, Amman, Jordan

2006

Attar in Beirut, Gallery Espace SD, Beirut, Lebanon

2005

Attar from Baghdad, 4 Walls Gallery, Amman, Jordan
Das Erbe / Merath, Inter-Galerie, Potsdam, Berlin, Germany

2003

Postman, Agial Gallery, Beirut Earth & Ink, Gallery 108, Boston, USA
Garden of Eden, The Phatory, New York, USA
Earth & ink, Gallery 108, Boston, USA

2002

Art Like Mercury, Agial Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon

1992-
1993 -
1994

French cultural center, Amman, Jordan

Selected Group Exhibitions

2018

Selections Cultural Narratives, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai UAE

2017

Between Two Rounds Of Fire, The Exhile Of The Sea, Katzen Art Center, American University Museum, Washington DC, USA
The Poetic of Absence, 1x1 Art Gallery, Dubai UAE
Amman Design week, Amman, Jordan

2015

Rituals of Signs and Transitions (1975-1995), Darat al Funun, Jordan
Aide-Mémoire footnotes (Part II), Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

2014

Aide-Mémoire, Barjeel Art Foundation, Marya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE

2013

(Dis-orient), SUMARRIALUNN Gallery, London, UK
25 years of creativity, Institute de mond Arab, Manama, Bahrein

2012

25 years of creativity, Institute de mond Arab, Paris, France
Art in Iraq today, Beirut Art Centre, Meem gallery, Beirut, Lebanon

2011

Strike Oppose, Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
Seeing is Believing, KW, Berlin, Germany
Continuum, Intervention Gallery, London, UK
Art in Iraq Today: Conclusions, Meem Gallery, Dubai UAE

2010

skyward, Dubai, UAE
Willem Baars Galley, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern & South Asian Art, Bonham’s, London, UK                       
Art in Iraq Today: Part I, Meem Gallery, Dubai, UAE

2009

Cosmopolite, for Holland’s Bridge, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2008

Iraqi Artists in Exile, Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas, USA
Dafatir. Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, Denison University, Granville, Ohio, USA

2007

The Iraqi Equation, Tapies Foundation, Barcelona, Spain
The Iraqi Equation, project of Catherine David, KW Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Daftar Project, Kuf-Mold, Istanbul, Turkey
Red Zone-Green Zone, Free Academy GEMAK, The Hague, Netherlands
Recognize, Contemporary Art Platform, London, UK
In Focus This Day, Tate Modern, London, UK
Dafatir. Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, The Centre for Book Arts, New York; Minneapolis, USA; Athenaeum, Minneapolis, Minnesota; NIU Art Museum, DeKalb, Illinois; The Jaffe Centre for Book Arts, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

2006

The Iraqi Equation, BILDMUSEET, Umea Contemporary Charity Auction, Christie’s and Canvas magazine, Dubai, UAE        
Dafatir. Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Centre for Book Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; University of Texas, El Paso, Texas, USA; Daura Gallery, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA

2005

Inter-Galerie, Berlin, Germany
Nicolas Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon
Dafatir. Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, University of North Texas Art Gallery, Denton, Texas, USA

2004

Extending Vision, Triangle ArtResidence, New York, USA

2003

Garden of Eden, The Phatory, New York, USA

2001

Cairo Biennale, Cairo, Egypt

1992-
1993-
1994

Darat Al funun, Shuman foundation, Amman, Jordan

Awards and Honors

2009

COSMOPOLITE – The Best Ideas Above Water (nominated as one out of thirty) – Prize for Hollands Bridge, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Collections

Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
Station Museum Of Contemporary Art, Houston, USA

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Documents

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Videos

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Exhibitions

NEDIM KUFI Artwork