Dalloul Art Foundation

Dalloul Art Foundation

RAFA NASIRI RAFA NASIRI

RAFA NASIRI, Iraq (1940 - 2013)

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Bio

Written by Yacoub Rubai & Liam Sibai

Born in Tikrit, Iraq, in 1940, Rafa Nasiri was the beneficiary of extensive international art education. He received his first diploma in painting from the Baghdad College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad in 1959, where he studied under the tutelage of Faik Hassan and Jewad Selim. The young artist then secured a scholarship to study printmaking at the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts in China, from which he graduated in 1963. 

After returning to Baghdad in 1965, he journeyed with his two brothers on a road trip to twenty-four Arab and European countries, where he became acquainted with gems of Western art history in person. He visited well-esteemed museums like the Louvre, the British Museum, the Museo del Prado, Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. On this trip, he eagerly absorbed the works of such European masters as Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, and Rembrandt, and drew inspiration from Impressionist paintings.

In 1967, Nasiri received a Gulbenkian Foundation scholarship to attend the Gravura in Lisbon, Portugal, where he earned another diploma in printmaking in 1969. He then taught at his alma mater in Baghdad for twenty-five years, and a decade into his tenure there, he established the Department of Graphic Art. During the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991, Nasiri moved to Jordan with his wife, May Muzaffar, who was a poet, writer, and visual artist in her own right. In Amman, he lectured at the Yarmouk University and became involved with the Darat al Funun Center for the Arts, which he directed from 1993 to 1995. During this time, he developed its art studio and taught courses. Following a six-year stint at the University of Bahrain (1997-2003), Nasiri settled permanently in Amman, where he lived and practiced until his death in 2013. Nasiri was also the author of numerous articles and books on graphic engravings, printmaking, and Arab calligraphy.

Rafa Nasiri is considered one of the most influential Iraqi artists of the twentieth century, due in part to his central role in the foundation of numerous artists’ groups. Alongside several of his eminent peers, including Ismail Fattah al-Turk and Dia Azzawi, Nasiri founded al-Ru’yya al-Jadidah, “the New Vision” group, in 1968. Al-Ru’yya al-Jadidah was an art collective that united culturally and ideologically like-minded artists after the dissolution of its predecessor, the Baghdad Group, and championed a more progressive version of the Baghdad Group’s commitment to cultural heritage. According to the New Vision manifesto, the group believed “that heritage is not a prison, a static phenomenon or a force capable of repressing creativity so long as we have the freedom to accept or challenge its norms.” Art, claimed the manifesto, “stands in opposition to stasis. Art is continually creative. It is a mirror to the present moment and the soul of the future.”

In addition to New Vision, Nasiri co-founded with the prominent Baghdadi artist Shakir Hassan Al Said the notable Jama’t Al-Bu’d al Wahad (One Dimension Group), whose deep philosophical underpinnings stressed the continuity of Arab-Islamic visual traditions and modern abstraction. Through his active involvement in art groups, as well as his teachings and writings, Nasiri played a pivotal role in the development of a strong tradition of Iraqi printmaking and influenced the subsequent generation of artists, including Nedim Kufi and Hanaa Malallah. Virtually all of Nasiri’s career in Iraq took place during the Baathist period (1968-2003), during which the regime placed great emphasis on art’s importance and dedicated significant resources to fostering its development. Like all artists operating in Iraq at the time, Nasiri faced both the unrealized promises of government funding and the threat of its censorship.

Stylistically and philosophically, Nasiri’s practice drew inspiration from his time in China. Exposure to the works of Chinese artists, such as the ink paintings of Qi Baishi, was highly influential in the artist’s development, as were the printmaking techniques espoused by Huang Yongyu and Li Hua, two of his teachers at the Beijing Central Academy. During his years abroad, Nasiri’s encounter with Chinese calligraphy sparked an interest he would soon carry into his own culture; he began to devise ways to include Arabic calligraphic forms in his paintings and prints, becoming an early practitioner of a set of stylistic principles presently known as Hurufiyya. The artist made use of Arabic calligraphy in his prints, later combining it with painterly abstraction, often mediated by acrylics. His practice became an important example of the tenets upheld by members of New Visions and One Dimension; the mix of modernist abstraction with visual signifiers of Arabic heritage, brought together by means of mass production, helped construct a narrative of Arab modernism that privileged local influences over foreign ones. Importantly, Nasiri’s work suggests that Iraqi modernity developed directly from its heritage, rejecting the belief in the modern as an invasive category either gifted to or forced upon the Middle East by European imperialism.

Nasiri’s interest in language and poetry extended to his artbooks, a medium he explored until the end of his career with works like Andalusia (1990) and Rain Song (2012). Many of the books were inspired by giants of Arabic verse from throughout history, with sources as temporally varied as Al-Moutanabbi (915-965 CE) and Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008). Nasiri also produced a small collection of drawings in the 1960s and 1970s, and again in the 2000s and 2010s. Some of these drawings were mimetic portraits, depicting subjects such as the artist’s mother and Dia Azzawi, while others were works of abstraction, some of which included calligraphy.

Rafa Nasiri died in Amman in 2013, away from the country whose arts culture he had worked so hard to develop. In 2014, May Muzaffar established the Nasiri Printmaking Award for young Arab artists, honoring her husband’s memory by investing in future generations.

Sources

"About." DIA AZZAWI. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://www.azzawiart.com/about.

Nasiri, Rafa. "C.V." Rafa Nasiri. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://www.rafanasiri.com/CV.aspx.

Shabout, Nada. “A Dream We Call Baghdad in Modernism”.30

Vivero, Joseph. "Rafa Al Nasiri: 50 Years Retrospective." ArtBahrainorg. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://artbahrain.org/web/?p=5498.

Villarreal, Ignacio. Barjeel Art Foundation Presents "Hurufiyya: Art & Identity" at Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://artdaily.com/news/92071/Barjeel-Art-Foundation-presents--Hurufiyya--Art---Identity--at-Bibliotheca-Alexandrina#.XQC2cXozZBw.

"A TRIBUTE TO RAFA NASIRI | Nabad - Pulse of the Art Scene." Nabad. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://www.nabadartgallery.com/?q=node/112.

"RAFA AL-NASIRI." Station Museum of Contemporary Art. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://stationmuseum.com/?page_id=2925.

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CV

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2013

50 Years of Painting and Printmaking, retrospective exhibition Jordan National Gallery for Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
The Financial Harbour Art Gallery, Manama, Bahrain

2010

Beyond Time, Nabad Gallery, Amman, Jordan

2008

Green Art Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

2007

Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, Kuwait

2006

Al-Riwaq Gallery, Manama, Bahrain

2005

Green Art Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

2004

Atassi Gallery, Damascus, Syria
4 Walls Gallery, Amman, Jordan

2002

4 Walls Gallery, Amman, Jordan
Al-Riwaq Gallery, Manama, Jordan

2001

Rochan Gallery, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

1999

Atelierhaus Eglau, Kampen, Germany
Bahrain National Museum, Manama, Bahrain

1997

Sharjah Museum, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

1996

Arts Centre, Manama, Bahrain

1994

French Cultural Centre, Amman, Jordan

1993

Galerie 50x70, Beirut, Lebanon

1990-
1992

Nasiri Graphic Studio, Baghdad, Iraq

1989

Central Art Gallery, Beijing, China

1986

Al-Rewaq Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq

1985

Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, Kuwait

1984

Al-Rewaq Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq

1983

Galerie Faris, Paris, France

1981

Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan

1980

Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, Kuwait

1979

Al-Rewaq Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq

1977

Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, Kuwait

1976

Gallery Nadhar, Casablanca, Morocco

1975

Graphics Paintings,The National Gallery of Modern Art, Baghdad

1974

Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, Kuwait

1973

Contact Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon

1971

Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, Kuwait

1970

Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, Kuwait

1969

Society of Iraqi Artists, Baghdad, Iraq

1966

Gallery IA, Baghdad, Iraq

1965

Czechoslovakian Cultural Center, Baghdad, Iraq

1963

ITU Gallery, Hong Kong, China

Selected Group Exhibitions

2020

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950-1980s, Grey Art Gallery, New York University; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Illinois; Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, New York; McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College; University of Michigan Museum of Art; US

2016

The Sea Suspended: Arab Modernism from the Barjeel Collection, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran

2013

Tajreed, CAP Kuwait, Kuwait

2012

Art in Iraq Today, Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut, Lebanon

2011

Art in Iraq Today: Part IV, Meem Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Art in Iraq Today: Conclusion, Meem Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

2010

Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar
My Home Land, Art Sawa Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

2009

Modernism and Iraq, Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, United States of America

2008

Dafatir: Contemporary Iraq Book Art, Denison University, Granville, Ohio, United States of America
Iraqi Artists in Exile, Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas, USA
The First Group Exhibition for Nabad Gallery, Nabad Gallery, Amman, Jordan

2007

Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, The Centre for Book Arts, New York, USA
Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, Minneapolis Athenaeum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, NIU Art Museum, DeKalb, Illinois, USA
Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, The Jaffe Centre for Book Arts, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

2006

Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, USA
Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, University of Texas, El Paso, Texas, USA
Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, Daura Gallery, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA
World Into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East, British Museum, London, UK

2005

Improvisation: Seven Iraqi Artists, Bissan Gallery, Doha, Qatar
Improvisation: Seven Iraqi Artists, Al-Riwaq Gallery, Bahrain
Improvisation: Seven Iraqi Artists, 4 Walls Gallery, Amman, Jordan
Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, University of North Texas, Houston, Texas, USA

2000

Exhibition of Contemporary Artists from Mesopotamia, Darat Al-Funun, Amman, Jordan

1999

Fifty Years of Iraqi Graphic Art, Darat Al-Funun, Amman, Jordan
L'Estampe Arabe Contemporaine, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France

1998

Azzawi & Nasiri, Galerie La Teinturerie, Paris, France
Suad Al-Attar & Rafa Nasiri, Al-Riwaq Art Gallery- Manama, Bahrain

1997

Three Graphic Arab Artists, Darat Al-Funun, Amman, Jordan
Five Iraqi Artists, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

1994

Four Iraqi Artists, Alif Gallery, Washington DC, United States of America

1993

Four Iraqi Artists, Al-Wasiti Art Gallery, Casablanca, Morocco

1992

Exhibition with Ali Talib, Darat Al-Funun, Amman, Jordan

1991

Contemporary Iraqi Art, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, United States of America

1990

Seven Iraqi Artists, Nasiri Graphic Studio, Baghdad, Iraq

1989

Between Tigris and Euphrates, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
The Arab Contemporary Graphic Exhibition, The National Council for Culture and Arts, Kuwait, Kuwait

1988

Azzawi, Jumaie, Nasiri, Kufa Gallery, London, United Kingdom

1986

Contemporary Arab Art, The Mall Gallery, London, United Kingdom

1985

Contemporary Arab Art, Blackman & Harvey Gallery, London, United Kingdom

1984

Contemporary Arab Art, Al-Seiaha Gallery, Tunisia.

1983

Second Contemporary Arab Graphic Art Exhibition, Graffiti Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Iraqi Graphic Exhibition, Iraqi Cultural Centre, London, United Kingdom
Twelve Arab Artists, Galerie Faris, Paris, France

1982

Contemporary Arab Graphic Art, Graffiti Gallery, London, United Kingdom

1980

Third World Graphic Biennial, Iraqi Cultural Center, London and Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq

1979

Baghdad 1st International Poster Exhibition (Palestine& the 3rd World)”, Iraqi Cultural Center, London, and Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad
Contemporary Iraqi Art Exhibition, Messina, Italy

1978

Arab Graphic Exhibition, The Mall Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Iraqi Graphic Exhibition, Iraqi Cultural Centre, London, United Kingdom
World Art Exhibition for Palestine, Beirut, Lebanon

1977

Seven Iraqi Artists, Iraqi Cultural Centre, London, United Kingdom

1976

Iraqi Contemporary Art, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, France

1975

Graphic exhibition for three Iraqi Artists, Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
Iraqi Graphic Artists, Iraqi Cultural Centre, Beirut, Lebanon

1974

Seven Iraqi Artists, Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq

1973

Joint Exhibition of Six Iraqi and Syrian Artists, Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
Joint Exhibition of Six Iraqi and Syrian Artists, Arab Cultural Centre and Archaeological Museum, Damascus, Syria

1972

Arab Art, National Museum, Nicosia, Cyprus
Four Iraqi Artists, Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
Three Iraqi Artists, Gallery One, Beirut, Lebanon

1971

One Dimensional, Museum of Arab Art, Baghdad, Iraq
Four Iraqi Artists, Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq

1970

Seven Iraqi Artists, Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq

1969

Three Iraqi Artists, Gallery One, Beirut, Lebanon

1968

Three Iraqi Artists, Gravura Gallery, Lisbon, Portugal

1967

Three Iraqi Artists, Gallery of the World Geographical Society, Lisbon, Portugal

1966

Iraqi Graphic Art, Berliner Galerie, Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany

1965

Iraqi Artists Society, National Gallery of Modern art (Gulbenkian), Eighth Annual Art, Iraq

Awards and Honors

1986

First Prize, Baghdad International Festival of Art, Baghdad, Iraq

1978

Honors Prize, International Graphic Biennial, Fredrikstad, Norway

1977

The Jury Prize, International Painting Exhibition, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France

1974

Honors Prize, International Summer Academy, Austria

Art Residency

2010

Asila, Morocco

2008

The International City of Arts, Paris, France

2004

The International City of Arts, Paris, France

1992

Asila, Morocco

1989

Museum of Contemporary Art, Madrid, Spain
Printing Center, London, UK

1985

Asila, Morocco

1982

Printing Center, London, UK

1981

Printing Center, London, UK

1979

Asila, Morocco

1976

Printing Center, London, UK

Publications

2012

My Journey to China, The Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, Beirut. ISBN: 978 6144 191071.                       

2005

Book (Horizons and Mirrors) Articles in the art, The Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, Beirut. ISBN: 9953-36-798-1

1997

Contemporary Graphic Art, The Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, Beirut.

Collections

Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad
Museum of Modern Art, Damascus
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
Khalid Shuman Foundation: Darat Al Funun, Amman, Jordan
Mathaf: Museum of Arab Art, Doha, Qatar
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
Kinda Foundation, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Al Mansourya Foundation, Saudi Arabia
Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
Sao Paolo Biennial Foundation, Brazil
Modern Art Museum, Madrid, Spain
Museum of contemporary Graphic Art, Norway
Collection of the International Academy, Salzburg, Austria
Collection of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China
Assila Museum, Morocco
Museum of Modern Art, Tunisia
Collection of Beit Al-Quran, Manama,Bahrain
Gulbenkian Foundation, Gravura, Lisbon, Portugal
The British Museum, London, UK
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Station Museum, Huston, USA
Biblioteque Nationale de France, Paris
The international collection of UNESCO‎, Paris.
Museum of Contemporary Arab Art, Sharjah, UAE

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Documents

West Asia: Between Tradition and Modernity
Salwa Mikdadi
metmuseum.org, English, 2004

Essay

Rafa Al-Nasiri at the Sultan Gallery
Sultan Gallery
Arabic, English, 1977

Catalog

Rafa Nasiri
Sultan Gallery
Arabic, English, 1971

Catalog

Modern Iraqi Graphic Art
Rafa Nasiri
English, 1986

Essay, Translated by May Muzaffar

أصيلة : المدينة التي تتجدد دائماً
Rafa Nasiri
آفاق عربية, Arabic, 1985

Article

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Press

رافع الناصري وتشكيل المشاهد الكونية
أ. د. سيّار الجميل
baytalmosul.com, Arabic, 2013
النهر وأنا" كتاب في حضور التشكيلي الراحل رافع الناصري"
علي إبراهـيم الدليمي
alarab.co.uk, Arabic, 2015
IRAQI ARTISTS IN EXILE RAFA AL-NASIRI
stationmuseum.com, English, 2015
The Iraqi Artist Rafa Al-Nasiri Creativity as Resistance
Martina Sabra
en.qantara.de, English, 2008
Rafa’ al Nasiri
Etel Adnan
daratalfunun.org, English
A TRIBUTE TO RAFA NASIRI
nabadartgallery.com, English
الرسام العراقي رافع الناصري ما زال يعلمنا
فاروق يوسف
alhayat, Arabic, 2015
رافع الناصري.. جدلية العتمة والضوء
د. رسول محمد رسول
alittihad.ae, Arabic, 2013
رافع الناصري يرسم لوحة الغياب الأخيرة ويرحل في عمّان
جواد الحطاب
alarabiya.net, Arabic, 2013
رافع الناصري مبعوثا إلى الآخرة بأسرارنا
فاروق يوسف
alarab.co.uk, Arabic, 2014
رافع الناصري يتوقف عند المحطة النهائية لمسيرة عنوانها الأناقة
meo.news, Arabic, 2013
رحيل الفنان التشكيلي رافع الناصري
almasalah.com, Arabic, 2013
رافع الناصري... الساحر العراقي
صلاح حسن
al-akhbar.com, Arabic, 2011
راﻓﻊ اﻟﻨﺎﺻﺮي… ﻣﺎت ﺑﻌﯿﺪاً ﻋﻦ ﺑﻐﺪاد
ﺑﯿﺎر أﺑﻲ ﺻﻌﺐ
al-akhbar.com, Arabic
لوحات رافع الناصري تجمع جماليات الحداثة بروحانية الأصالة
مجدي عثمان
alittihad.ae, Arabic, 2014
في الذكرى الخامسة لرحيل رافع الناصري
علي إبراهـيم الدليمي
azzaman.com, Arabic, 2018
5 سنوات على رحيل رافع الناصري:جماليّات الحروفيّ والحفّار
عمر شبانة
alaraby.co.uk, Arabic, 2018
مساحات منتظمة تتخللها الحروف الحركة عند ألفنان رافع الناصري
د. ماضي حسن نعمة
elsada.net, Arabic, 2017
Arab Identity and international art
George Sorley Whittet
English, 1985

Magazine Article

معرض استعادي لمسيرة الفنان التشكيلي العراقي رافع الناصري
almadenahnews.com, Arabic, 2013
رافع الناصري.. فنان الجمال والحرية
توفيق عابد عّمان
aljazeera.net, Arabic, 2014
تحية الى رافع الناصري
newspaper.annahar.com, Arabic, 2014
50 Years Retrospective
artbahrain.org, English, 2013
من أعمال الفنان رافع الناصري
عبدالرحمن السليمان
alyaum.com, Arabic, 2005
.تحية الى المتنبي" معرض ينطلق من البحرين . رافع الناصري يعيد سحر الشرق الى اللوحة الحديثة"
مي مظفر
Al-Hayat, Arabic, 2002
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Videos

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Exhibitions

RAFA NASIRI Artwork