The work of Iraqi-American painter Ahmed Alsoudani is inseparable from the geopolitical details of his biography. Born into a generation that witnessed brutal armed conflict during the first Gulf War between Iran and Iraq (1980–88), Alsoudani fled to the United States via Syria. He continues to develop pictorial strategies and motifs that distil this experience, depicting chimerical, hybrid personages punctured by wounds and ruptures.
In his paintings organic and inorganic elements are crushed together, evoking the violent evisceration of urban warfare and the slough of body parts, animals and buildings it leaves behind. The image thus turns into a kind of visual synecdoche in which isolated parts signify a now destroyed whole.
Artists have addressed conflict in many ways throughout history, but most relevant to Alsoudani’s practice are George Grosz and Otto Dix, who both produced some of their most visceral work in Weimar Germany between the First and Second World Wars. Dix and Grosz found a unique visual language of horror in the splicing of mutilated flesh and mechanical prostheses; the same pungent urgency can be seen here. Here, the Vitamin P3-featured painter tells us what interests, inspires and spurs him on.
Who are you? I am a painter, born in Baghdad and working and living in New York City.
What’s on your mind right now? Oh, a lot right now since I don’t have deadlines for the first time in eight years. That’s a strange feeling or something I haven’t experienced before. But, that allows me to reflect on how much pressure I used to have and without it, I have more freedom on my paintings.
How do you get this stuff out? I don’t think I am able to get it out totally. The moment I think I get it out, new things will get in. So, It’s a non-stopping game.
How does it fit together? I don’t know if it fits together or not. Each painting of mine is fragmentation of imageries and ideas. This is how I see the world around me. Each painting has its own conflict and I need to figure out how to make it work.
What brought you to this point? This fucked up world we have to deal with everyday.
Can you control it? Sometimes, I think I am in control, but in reality I am not. I still have the same struggles and fears every time I face a blank canvas, even though I feel more like an experienced painter than before.
Have you ever destroyed one of your paintings? Of course! At least two or three paintings a year. Simply I sometimes get stuck in the middle of the process and it doesn’t go anywhere. Then I stop.
What’s next for you, and what’s next for painting? I am currently working on a few large paintings with a limited colour palette. I felt like I had been hiding behind colours when I faced some struggles in my painting. So I decided to eliminate some colours and step out of my comfort zone. It’s quite tough, but I’m getting there.
Vitamin P3 New Perspectives In Painting is the third in an ongoing series that began with Vitamin P in 2002 and Vitamin P2 in 2011. For each book, distinguished critics, curators, museum directors and other contemporary art experts are invited to nominate artists who have made significant and innovative contributions to painting. The series in general, and Vitamin P3 in particular, is probably the best way to become an instant expert on tomorrrow's painting stars today.
Find out more about Vitamin P3 New Perspectives In Painting here. Check back for another Why I Paint interview with a Vitamin P3-featured artist soon. Finally, be sure to check out two prints by Ahmed Alsoudani at Artspace.