Modhir Ahmed came of age in the late 1960s. He studied at Baghdad Institute of Fine Arts in the era when Mini- malism 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 vi- sion, 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, the impression left by his Polish professors and the impact and promi- nence 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 re- sourceful and discover new materials and techniques to create art. He considered it as freedom – to paint without the limitation of economics and rules. His individual understanding of form, space and the possibilities of combining techniques; drippy, slashy black and white language would characterise his next body of work. In effect, the rules no longer held.
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. His figurative gestures and geometry may be the fading signifiers of a dying modernism, but they have not lost their transcendental significance – an ingenious reconciliation of opposites that leaves the two un-reconciled. He seems to have loosened up as he devel- oped, yet this tension – the sense of the irreconcilable within the reconciled – survives as a trace in those central divisions however uncertain, and however regressively bound to a modernist sense they may seem.
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 attended Computer Graphics in Skövde with the intention of learning the latest design software and using it as an additional tool to enhance with his masterful print 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 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, including his former professors and friends from Poland, to come, learn and update their technical knowledge.
As his oeuvre matured, Modhir’s art has gone through several phases while still sustaining a consistent yet remark- able 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 competi- tions and exhibitions.
Maria Victoria Vivero
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