Ahmed Alsoudani - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Mehr Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Mehr Gallery, Ahmed Alsoudani, 10 January–9 February 2008
    New York, Goff + Rosenthal, Ahmed Alsoudani, 1 May–13 June 2009

  • Literature

    R. Goff and C. Rosenthal, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ostfildern and New York, 2009, p. 54 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “As a painter’s painter, Ahmed Alsoudani is a rare breed in today’s conceptually obsessed art world”

    Ahmed Alsoudani’s harrowing scenes filled with imagery of devastation and violence depict human suffering and the universal experience of conflict. A native of Iraq who gained political asylum in the United States, Alsoudani witnessed the recent invasion of his country from the perspective of an outsider. Watching Baghdad, his city of birth, being bombed and torn to the ground prompted Alsoudani to make war the subject of his art-not a specific war but all wars with their death, destruction, dislocation and despair. As a result, his powerful, dynamic, large-scale canvases relay a narrative filled with deformed figures, some almost indistinguishable and verging on the bestial which intertwine and distort in surreal landscapes.

    The present Untitled work from 2007 is a strong early canvas executed shortly after Alsoudani’s graduation with honours from the highly prestigious Yale School of Art. Prior to Yale, while attending the Maine College of Art, Alsoudani mainly drew and his accomplished training as a draughtsman is clearly visible in the present lot. As an important transition work, Untitled displays use of an Ingres-like line to delineate forms while also incorporating rich, saturated colour to create dynamic movement in a manner reminiscent of Delacroix. Classically trained, Alsoudini, unlike many of his peers, begins his paintings by defining space, perspective and figures using charcoal on unprimed canvas. He subsequently applies to certain areas of the composition layer upon layer of paint to build up a highly textured surface whereas other areas remain in their embryonic state. Exposing Alsoudani’s richly layered working process, Untitled is unique within the artist’s body of work as it retains the powerful immediacy of a sketch while its majestic scale affirms it as an undeniable masterpiece of his oeuvre and within the long canon of war paintings.

    Quoting from the art historical canon is in fact one of Alsoudani’s greatest strengths. His remarkable ability to digest and synthesize the work of past masters is unrivalled – frequently cited influences include Caravaggio’s biblical and mythical slayings, Goya’s Disasters of War and the German Expressionist painter George Grosz whose complex iconography Alsoudani modernizes. Looking at more recent sources, Pablo Picasso’s mural sized war painting Guernica is a clear point of reference. As in Guernica, in which animals and humans suffer in a bunker during the bombing of the eponymous Basque village by German and Italian warplanes during the Spanish Civil War, Alsoudani’s four intertwined figures in Untitled are huddled in a confined interior space, perhaps a jail or even their own home. A ladder pointing in the direction of, but clearly not reaching, what appears to be two windows would suggest the group’s futile attempt at escaping their predicament. Another point of reference is the British painter Francis Bacon and specifically his study of human anatomy in motion inspired by the photographic work of Eadweard Muybridge. With their gestural fluency, Alsoudani’s four figures could be read as one figure in motion, twisting and turning as it attempts to hide from a chilling horror. A final point of strong reference is the painter Willem de Kooning whose early works like Untitled lay on the cusp between abstraction and figuration. In both de Kooning and Alsoudani, there is a clear battle, a push and pull, between line and colour to define space, form and meaning.

    As a painter’s painter, Ahmed Alsoudani is a rare breed in today’s conceptually obsessed art world. His personal story, his dramatic escape from Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian regime after having defaced as a teenager the dictator’s likeness in Baghdad, is bone chilling. Beyond the pain and suffering he has endured, Alsoudani’s life experience has left him with an uncanny ability to portray through his paintings a kind of awful beauty in horror.



Charcoal, acrylic and oil on canvas.
213.4 x 182.9 cm (84 x 72 in).
Signed and dated “Soudani 07” on the reverse.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £229,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

16 February 2012