Modhir Ahmed came of age in the late 1960s. He studied at Baghdad Institute of Fine Artsin the era when Minimalism was the leading movement in the art world. As a student, he was very much a product of his time. The time when Shaker Hassan Said, Iraq’s most influential artist, gave rise to the first enunciation of Iraq’s artistic heritage transformed into modern art’s visual language – from the wealth of Mesopotamia to the beauty and light of the horizon to ordinary Arabic domestic elements. As a result of his enthusiasm on this revolutionary concept, young Modhir would spend his leisure time at the national museum drawing and discovering the basic principles of abstract and minimalism – a place where he would derive modern art’s concept of creative imagination. It involved the artist recovering the innocence of a child’s vision, a naiveté which is founded on thorough competence, and above all individuality. He created randon drawings driven by his intuition whilst listening to “maqam” and Iraqi poetry.
Like other Baghdadi artists of his generation who looked up to their mentors, the impression left by his Polish professors and the impact and prominence of Polish poster art, inspired Modhir to further his studies in Poland, the centre of the print world to master graphic arts. Because Polish institutional infrastructure was based on artistic merit rather than commercial viability, Modhir enjoyed that period of upheaval and experimentation. The scarcity of art materials taught him to be resourceful and discover newmaterials and techniques to create art. He considered it as freedom -to paint without the limitation of economics and rules. Moving further away from Minimalism while retaining a minimal look, Modhir arrives at a kind of extroverted maximalism – a prelude to the directions in which his art would go in the future.
After completing five years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Modhir’s sheer ambition and energy would carry him to Sweden – where the unparalleled social freedom, material prosperity, and mass communication would give him room to create and breathe.
Upon arrival, he studied Computer Graphics in Skövde to enhance his printmaking techniques. Bringing with him firsthand knowledge of the European avant garde, it was time for him to begin an unfettered career. He landed a job as director of The Print Workshop in Falun, Sweden’s oldest and most equipped print workshop that hosts printmaking activities for the local community and visitors alike. The country’s wealth of materials enabled him to create a non-toxic environment with endless possibilities to experiment on various and new print making techniques that would attract printmakers from all over the world.
As his oeuvre matured, Modhir’s art has gone through several phases while still sustaining a consistent yet remarkable evolution. His travels resulted in a hybrid style – a roundup of abstract or near-abstract artworks in print, drawing and mix medium – combined modernist structure with two-dimensional elements and stirring automatism into the mix. Along with free forms, he has continued using his early plates intermittently as under-layer up to the present. Now they serve as his signature – invented images as distinctively individual as Modhir Ahmed.
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1956, Modhir has lived in Sweden since 1989. Over the years, his graphic inventiveness and advance knowledge of hard-ground lithography won him awards and merits in international graphic art competitions and exhibitions. He has been cited for numerous awards and honours over the years, from Scandinavia to Poland and from Egypt to France and lately China. In 2007, he did an artist’s book on Tomas Tranströmer’s Galleriet, entitled Vecka nr.II.
In January 2012, he celebrated his 35 years of art making at Dalarnas museum with an exhibition entitled, “Modhir Ahmed: 35 Years Retrospective” which occupied three rooms of the museum in chronological order and presented an unparalleled opportunity to study the artist’s elaborate involvement with printmaking which led to a refined mastery of mixed media paintings – original works on paper -further translated in three-dimension installations and sculptures. The exhibition also explored the artist’s striking self-portraits created in the 80s, which points to the significance of figuration throughout the artist’s works, and the aesthetic practices that guided his decisions and his oeuvre as a whole.
The retrospective traveled to the town of Boras, the artist’s first residence in Sweden last October 2012. Entitled “Lord of the Earth,” the controversial three-part exhibition focused on his very recent works in 2D translated to 3D with found objects. It was an experiment on – “art spectatorship,” a new concept of viewing art; “art appreciation,” the process of consumption; “value of art,” guide to prompt the viewers to exercise their intellectual superiority as a means to evaluate the artistic merit of art exhibitions – with the purpose ofinspiring people to strive for change in the way they relate to the once beautiful and safe and to recognise the role that all of us play in the destruction of our planet and life on earth.
He lives and work in Falun, Sweden since 1992 as Director of Falu Konstgrafiska Verkstad. He is a member of the InternationalJudging Panel of IMPRINT Kulisiewicz International Graphic Arts Triennial in Warsaw and jury member of MTG PrintArt Krakow-Katowice- Krakow Triennale.