27th of April Through 25th of May, 2022

Moments in Time: Nadira Azzouz

Janet Rady Fine Art is pleased to present ‘Moments in Time’, an online exhibition showcasing a selection of 20 works by the late female Iraqi artist, Nadira Azzouz (1927-2020).

Azzouz’s oeuvre exudes an overwhelming optimism, whether through family portraits, depicting an intimate couple, individual sitters, and landscapes. Azzouz’s works are made up of bold colours and transformations of abstract forms that project a sense of wonder and joy. When we observe her paintings, we hear music playing, we see the dynamism of moving dancers, and smell the perfumed scents of summer that generate the excitement of new beginnings.

Born in Mosul in 1927, Azzouz started painting at the age of six. She would later go on to study fine art at the School of Domestic Fine Arts in Baghdad and at the Central School of Art in London (BA in Painting) as well as studying Still Life and Freehand at Cambridge. By 1960, Azzouz staged her first solo show in Baghdad. Like many Iraqi artists of her generation, who had studied abroad, often in the West, Nadira Azzouz’s artistic practice is informed by the canon of 20th century international modernism, yet fused with a distinctively Iraqi identity, as found in sculpture of ancient civilisations, as well as medieval Arab illuminated manuscripts, and the folk motifs of handicrafts, rugs, and textiles.

Writing on Nadira’s distinctive style, critic and artist, Jabra Ibrahim Ibra, wrote in 1983, “There is something peculiarly feminine … in her choice of colour and composition as well, explicable perhaps in the context of an Iraqi woman’s passions. Things akin to burning coals suddenly glow and let off sparks through a brazier full of ashes. … For her, painting has often been a form of communication with inner visions, inner eruptions to which no figure or word could do justice, hence her emphasis and resourceful play on colour. In her recent work one can see her striving after a more lyrical, more diaphanous effect, suggestive of technical mastery.”

Living in Lebanon in the 1960s and 1970s, a period characterised by cultural blossoming and exchange, Azzouz took part in many solo and group shows. In 1965 and 1974, Azzouz staged solo exhibitions at Beirut’s seminal Gallery One. Her large-scale works, measuring up to 3 x 2 metres, transgressed the established conventions for painting at the time. Allowing the paint on these canvases to drip on the figures and forms, her artistic practice and aesthetic expression was explosive and abstract, and reflected the wider socio-political environment of Lebanon. As the political situation became increasingly tense, chaos would appear at the bottom of her canvas, and as the conflict of the Lebanese Civil war crept into the marrow of society, it too, seeped into her paintings.

When the situation became increasingly hard to bear, Azzouz moved with her young family to London in 1980. In 1988 Azzouz took part in the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Arab Women Artists in the UK’ held at Kufa Gallery, London. Nadira Azzouz continued to exhibit works in London, and more recently, held a solo exhibition at the London Westbank Gallery in 2013 called “East Meets West”, and “Art & Wine” at the Kenilworth Gallery in 2015. Azzouz continued to paint and make powerful thought-provoking work in London until her death in 2020 at the age of 93.

Nadira Azzouz’s homeland of Iraq and residence in Lebanon remained deeply ingrained in her artistic practice and theoretical approach. Her love for the Arab world, ancient Sumerian and Assyrian civilisations, medieval Arab manuscript illumination, motifs in textiles, and literature continued to play a central role in her canvases till the end of her life.

Her works can be found in the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, as well as prominent private international collections in Italy and London. Azzouz was recently the posthumous subject of Dubai-based Cultural Art Advisor, Myrna Ayad's monthly “Remembering the Artist” column in The National

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