The intriguing and pioneering Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri (1927-2012) has a retrospective on currently in London, 25th June–6th July.
Known as one of the big three from Iraq, his work is unique in that it represents the atomic level of reality revealed by modern science, and falls into the new cubist genre. This macroscopic reality of ‘atomic spectra’, which for Sabri was often more real than the mundane, he termed “Quantum Realism” – visible light at specific energy levels – in a 1971 paper Manifesto of the New Art of Quantum Realism (QR)
In this he expounds his own ideas around the complex processes in nature and how they translate to art. “Art is now the last area of human activity to which the scientific method is still not applied.” His work spans canvas, string on board to wooden sculpture and includes several talks and publications (e.g. Leonardo Vol 7 No.1 1974).
Born in 1927 in the Mahdiya neighborhood in Baghdad, he left Iraq to study political sciences in Britain in 1949 and later returned to Iraq to join the arts group the Pioneers Group which was established by the prominent artist Fa’iq Hassan 1950.
Mahmoud Sabri was one of the corner stones of contemporary Iraqi art and a member of the Communist Party, an association which had a great impact on not only his own work, but which brought Marxist concepts in to the main Iraqi art movement of the time.
Sabri continually stressed his support for attitudes of the labor class and brought this out in his work, especially when speaking of his work, and expounded the importance of a social dimension to the arts. His 1971 manifesto was soon followed by a show of QR in Prague that year, and took him later to London to speak at venues such as the Whitechapel Art Gallery.
It’s a great shame he has passed away, as there is a clear dearth of information on Sabri, and he would clearly have had a lot to say in this the year of quantum computing, and in the context of the recent Iraqi contribution to the Venice Biennial, fully challenges set ideas of what Iraqi art consists of and can be.
Recommended events a La Galeria:
29th June, 14:00 – 15:30: Artist Satta Hashem will give a lecture and a guided tour of Sabri’s work
3rd July, 18.00 – 20.00: Symposium – Mahmoud Sabri and art in Iraq. Includes a panel discussion and documentary films