Dalloul Art Foundation
SADIK KWAISH ALFRAJI SADIK KWAISH ALFRAJI

SADIK KWAISH ALFRAJI, Iraq (1960)

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Bio

Written by Nathalie Bsat

Sadik Kwaish AlFraj was born in 1960 in Baghdad. He obtained a BFA in Painting and Plastic Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts Baghdad in 1987 where he studied under Shaker Hassan and where he absorbed the mission of the Iraqi pioneers to join modernism with heritage. He then obtained a High Diploma in Graphic Design from CHK Constantijin Huygens, the Netherlands in 2000.

Alfraji is a multimedia artist whose early works consisted of paintings, etchings, and woodcuts to later evolve into ink and charcoal on paper drawings with prints, animations, art books, and installations. This polyvalence in his medium was his way to display a storyteller skill.

In the last year of his studies in Baghdad, Al Fraji undertook an internship at the educational TV channel in the animation department, where he was asked to train in illustration. His exposure to animation tools led him to his first experimentation with moving graphics. Ever since, the artist has been fascinated by animation, stop-motion specifically. He combined this talent with his interest in literature and specifically existential philosophy. In fact, the text is an essential component of his work; in his animations, Alfraji explores the relationship between text and image, often laying them side by side.

Al Faraji’s works are very monochromatic. His protagonist is often a black, charcoal figure.  

The artist’s first encounter with an art form in all black was in his childhood during a holiday called Ashoura, a universal day of mourning for Shi’a Muslims. His mother would dip his and his sibling’s clothes in black dye and hang them up to dry, the black drippings staining the ground.  

The recurrent black figure in Sadik’s works is always in profile view and one-eyed, much like the characters in ancient Sumerian, Greek, and Assyrian art. This black figure was shaped mostly by patients at a psychiatric hospital the artist visited quite often, inspired by the rawness of emotions and the reality of life in that institution. To the artist, they represent all of humanity. A figure in profile view is looking ahead, to the unknown, to the endlessness of time versus a front facing figure which captures only one, fleeting moment. His character seems to be contemplating and thinking, burdened by its existence, often bent over as if carrying that burden. It is sometimes painted large, filling up the entirety of the paper and at other times, shrunken and multiplied, disappearing into a crowd of the same features. The figure in a way is representative of the artist himself, a giant as if he feels the need to confirm his presence as opposed to the minuscule version of the figure that shows his exact size against the magnitude of the universe. 

Since the late 70s, with the ongoing wars and political struggle in Iraq the liveliness of Baghdad that Alfraji knew in his youth has disappeared, the city became unrecognizable to him.  The artist describes exile as a constant feeling of loss that puts a gap between your present reality and your memory. Much of Iraq’s heritage was lost. The destruction of historical and artistic heritage greatly affected the artist, as an Iraqi, but also from a humanitarian perspective. Alfraji developed an interest in the reproduction of mythology and different aspects of Iraqi literature and history in the prospect of reincarnating this culture into his new works and new media. He drew his style greatly from German expressionism all the while finding a middle ground between European modernism and ancient art and heritage of his own land. He also incorporated elements of his own personal history and philosophy, shaped by the extensive readings throughout his life. He is particularly drawn to authors like Kafka and Samuel Beckett.

Al Fraji was named Artist of the Year at the Esquire Middle East Awards in 2012. A monograph on the artist was published by Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam in 2015. He currently lives and works in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

Sources

MarayaArtCentre. YouTube. April 03, 2017. Accessed October 18, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO40ptcv0P4.

Alfraji, Sadik Kwaish. Once Upon A Time: Hadiqat Al Umma. Sharjah: Maraya Art Centre, 2017.

Art Radar. Accessed October 18, 2017. http://artradarjournal.com/2017/04/05/iraqi-artist-sadik-kwaish-alfrajis-once-upon-a-time-hadiqat-al-umma-at-maraya-art-centre-sharjah/.

Butler, Andy. "Sadik Alfraji Interview." Designboom | Architecture & Design Magazine. March 20, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2019. https://www.designboom.com/art/sadik-alfraji-interview/.

""A Tapestry Woven in My Soul": Sadik Kwaish Alfraji on Childhood Recollections That Shaped Him as an Artist." Ruya Foundation For Contemporary Culture In Iraq. January 13, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2019. https://ruyafoundation.org/en/2016/01/3059/.

This is a short biography. The full version , along with research, CV and sources will be posted soon. Stay tuned and visit us often or become a member to be notified of our updates.

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CV

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2019

We Scream, But Nothing Changes, Naves Matadero–International Living Arts Centre, Madrid, Spain
The River That Was in the South, Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, UAE

2018

Dark is the Tone of My History, Casa Arabe, Madrid, Spain

2017

Once Upon a Time, Hadiqat Al Umma, Maraya Art Center, Sharjah, UAE
Seasons of Lost Baghdad, Maraya Art Center, Ayyam Gallery booth, Art Dubai 2017, UAE
War Scraps At Lemvig Museum, Bunkermuseum, part of Meetings Symposium, Rom, Denmark

2016

Ali’s Boat, Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, Belgium
A Dream Within A Dream, Tanit Gallery, Munich, Germany

2015

Driven By Storms (The Notebooks), Ayyam Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon
Driven By Storms (Ali’s Boat), Ayyam Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE
Ali’s Boat, Ayyam Gallery, London, UK

2014

Biography of a Head, Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut, Lebanon

2013

Godot to Come Yesterday, Ayyam Gallery, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
I Do Not Feel That I Am Free, Ayyam Gallery, London, UK

2011

Waiting for Godot, Ayyam Gallery, Damascus, Syria
Nothing, Nobody, Ayyam Gallery, DIFC, Dubai, UAE

2010

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Freedom, Stadsgalerij, Amersfoort, Netherlands
For the Love of Zainab, Art Singel 100, Amsterdam, Netherlands
A Cup of Coffee with Kafka, ‘t Hoogt, Utrecht, Netherlands

2008

Born April 9th, Station Museum, Houston, Texas, US
Dear Rilke we are all Travellers, Gallery Majke Husstege, Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
Art Singel 100, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2007

Born April 9th, Stedelijk Museum's-Hertogenbosch, Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
Keeping Clear of Socrates, Seasons Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands

2006

Collect-Art Gallery, Amersfoort, Netherlands
Human Miniatures, Gallery Witteveen, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2005

Papers of a Rational Being, 4 Walls Gallery, Amman, Jordan

2004

Memories of a Golden City: Baghdad, Aya Gallery, London, UK

2000 

In Between Project, Cultural Centre Ter Dilft, Bornem, Belgium

1999

Gallery Felix, Kampen, Netherlands

1994

French Cultural Center, Amman, Jordan

1993

Talisman, Baladna Gallery, Amman, Jordan

1992

Baladna Gallery, Amman, Jordan

1989

Miniatures Wood Cut, Al-Rawaq Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq

Selected Group Exhibitions

2020

Imagined Communities, 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_ Videobrasil, São Paulo, Brazil

2019

Theater of Operations, The Gulf War 1991-2011, MoMA PS1, New York, US
Contemporary Art, Asia, Australia and the Pacific, CCPLM, Centro Cultural La Moneda, Santiago, Chile
Eyes East Bound, 13th Cairo International Biennale, chosen by artistic director Ehab EL-Labban, Cairo, Egypt
9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9), Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane, Australia

2018

The Arrangements of the Soul in the Universe, Langgeng Art Foundation, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Salon-18 Amersfoort–Utrecht: contemporary art, Rietveld Museum, Amersfoort, Netherlands
you + topia, Ayyam Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE
Tribe: Contemporary Photography from the Arab World, American
University Museum, Washington DC, US
Abu Dhabi Art, Ayyam Gallery Booth, Abu Dhabi, UAE

2017

Between two rounds of fire, the exile of the sea, Katzen Art Center, American University Museum, Washington DC, US
Our Night is Long, Ayyam Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE
I am the Hunter/I am the Prey, 57th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Moving Stories: Three Journeys, The British Museum, London, UK
Time, Site & Lore, Lemvig Museum, Denmark
Archaic, 57th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

2016

Imperfect Chronology: Mapping the Contemporary II, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK

2015

Who said tomorrow doesn’t exist?, TRIO Biennial, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Autonomy of Self: Rejecting violence with the lens in former Ottoman territories, P21 Gallery, London, UK
From the figurative to the abstract – modern art from the Arab World, British Museum, London, UK
View From Inside: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and Mixed Media Art, Abu Dhabi Festival, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Aide-mémoire, Maraya Art Centre – Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East, LACMA, Los Angeles, California, US

2014

The Future Yesterday, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado, US
Fluid Forms II, Samsung Blue Square, Seoul, South Korea; Busan Museum of Art, Busan, South Korea
View from Inside, 15th FotoFest Biennale, Houston, Texas, US
Contemporary Uprising: Art from the Middle East, Nest Gallery, Geneva, Switzerland  

2013

R-Evolution, Ayyam Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE
25 Years of Arab Creativity, Abu Dhabi Festival in partnership with Institut du Monde Arabe, The Gallery at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, UAE
UNITEXT, 9th Kaunas Biennial, M. K. Ciurlionis National Museum of Art, Kaunas, Lithuania

2012

25 Years of Arab Creativity, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan  
The Samawi Collection II, Ayyam Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE

2011

International Festival of Contemporary Art, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Algiers,Algeria

2010

Told / Untold / Retold, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar  

2008

12 Tekenaars, Gallery Witteveen, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Old Friends & New Faces, Seasons Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands
Arttransit Gallery, Amersfoort, Netherlands
New Salon: Identity has a Face with No Features, CBKU & Central Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands  

2007

8th International Biennial of Engraving, Premio Acqui, Acqui Terme, Italy

2006

Intervisie IV, Seasons Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands International Book-Art Project, Artetica, Roma, Italy
Rabbit and House, 4th International Artist's Book Triennial, ARKA Gallery, Vilnius, Lithuania
Vers van de Pers, Utrecht Graphic Atelier, Utrecht, Netherlands

2005

Power in Print, Southern Graphics Council International, Washington D.C., US
Daftar: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, University of North Texas Art Gallery, Houston, Texas, US
4th International Biennial of Contemporary Graphic Arts, Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirsk, Russia
5th International Mini - Print Biennial Cluj, Cluj-Napoca Art Museum, Cluj- Napoca, Romania
4th LESSEDRA World Art Print Annual - Mini Print, Lessedra Art Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria
Re-Interpreting the Middle East: Beyond The Historical Stereotype, Sisson Gallery - MacKenzie Fine Arts Center - Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn, Michigan, US
Meent Art Gallery, Hilversum, Netherlands Galerie Covalenco, Geldrop, Netherlands
Best of Inkt, Inkt Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands

2004

The Iowa Biennial of Contemporary Miniature Prints, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, US
1st International Collage Exhibition, Kaire Desine Gallery, Vilnius, Lithuania 26th International Hollfeld Art Exhibition, Hollfeld Museum, Hollfeld Germany
3rd LESSEDRA World Art Print Annual - Mini Print, Lessedra Art Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria
Op Format, Inkt Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands

2003

Expressions of Hope, Aya Gallery, London, UK

2002

1001 Reasons to Love the Earth, Foundation 2000, Seoul, South Korea

2001

Inkt Graphic Calendar, Inkt Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands
The Outside of the Inside, Manege St. Petersburg Art Hall, St. Petersburg, Russia

2000

Op Format, Inkt Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands
Strokes of Genius, The Brunei Gallery, London, UK
In Between Project, Cultural Centre Ter Dilft, Bornem, Belgium Participation, Kaapelitehdas, Helsinki, Finland

1999

Utrecht Graphic Atelier, Utrecht, Netherlands Graphic Atelier, Kampen, Netherlands
Op Format, Inkt Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands

1998

Gallery Felix, Kampen, Netherlands

1997

International Exhibition for Modern Art, Granada, Spain
Utrecht Graphic Atelier, Utrecht, Netherlands

1996

Musée Les Metiers De Mercure, Rochefort, France

1993

Darat Al Funun, Amman, Jordan

1988

Baghdad International Festival of Arts, Art Center, Baghdad, Iraq

1987

Al Wasiti Festival, Art Center, Baghdad, Iraq
17th International Biennial Graphic Art, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia
8th Norwegian International Print Biennial, Fredrikstad,Norway

1985

The National and International Graphic Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey
Contemporary Iraqi Graphic Art, Al Orfali Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq
5th Seoul International Miniature Prints Biennial, Seoul, South Korea

Awards and Honors

2017

The 13th Cairo Biennale prize, Cairo, Egypt

2015

Grant, Driven By Storms (Ali’s Boat), Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2014

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Bellagio Italy

2012

Artist of the Year at the Esquire Middle East Awards. Dubai, UAE

Collections

The British Museum, London, UK
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, US
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, US
Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
MATHAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, U.A.E
Cluj-Napoca Art Museum, Romania
Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Russia
Khaled Shoman Foundation Amman, Jordan
French Cultural Center, Amman, Jordan
National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
The Art Center, Baghdad, Iraq
The National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirdk, Russia
The Samawi Collection, Dubai, UAE
Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas, US

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Press

THE LAST WORD SADIK KWAISH ALFRAJI
Canvas magazine, English
The House That My Father Built
LYL
Asymptotejournal.com, English
عن قماش منسوج في روحي: صادق كويش الفراجي يستعيد ذكريات الطفولة التي شكلت وجدانه كفنان
ruyafoundation.org, Arabic, 2016
“A Tapestry Woven in My Soul”: Sadik Kwaish Alfraji on childhood recollections that shaped him as an artist.
ruyafoundation.org, English, 2016
Being Sadik: Home, Existence, and Figures in the Shadows
Fawz Kabra
barjeelartfoundation.org, English, 2015
اعمال الفنان الفراجي في «4 جدران»: اسئلة الوجود بفلسفة جمالية
alrai.com, Arabic, 2005
APT9
Michael Young
mutualart.com, English, 2018
Sadik Kwaish Alfraji
ALI MACGILP
contemporaryartsociety.org, English, 2017
Sadik Kwaish Alfraji at the Venice Biennale
Ambika Rajgopal
ASIAN Art, English, 2017
MASTER Storyteller
Harper's BAZAAR Art, English, 2017
Venice Conversations: Sadik Kwaish Alfraji and the dialectic of the hunter and prey
ruyafoundation.org, English, 2017
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Videos

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Exhibitions

SADIK KWAISH ALFRAJI Artwork