Iraqi-Kurdish artist Ismail Khayat leaves lasting impressions on SMA
A composition by Ismail Khayat.
Mohammad Yusuf, Feature Writer
Sheikh Salem Bin Abdulrahman Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Office of the Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the 12th edition of the annual Lasting Impressions series of exhibitions organized by the Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA). The exhibition, which runs until November 27 at the Sharjah Museum of Art, features the works of legendary Iraqi-Kurdish artist, Ismail Khayat.
The exhibition is co-organized by Alya Al-Mulla and Hayas Khayat. The event was opened in the presence of Amad Abdulhameed, Consul General of Iraq, Manal Ataya, Managing Director of SMA, and the artist’s wife Gaziza Omer and son Hayas Khayat. The exhibition aims to promote knowledge and raise public awareness of art. Lasting Impressions features leading Arab artists who have contributed to the development of art in the Arab world and left a lasting mark.
The focus is on their prolific careers which left a lasting impact on the art world and contributed to the development and evolution of modern art, particularly in the Arab world. Ismail Khayat – known as the Stone Man, the Picasso of Iraq and the grandfather of Kurdish art – was one of the most prolific modernist artists in Iraq, particularly in Kurdistan.
With a career spanning nearly six decades, he initiated the art movement in Iraqi Kurdistan and is an icon in Kurdish artistic circles. He is considered one of the founders of the Kurdish art scene. Former director of visual arts at the Ministry of Culture of Kurdistan, Khayat’s works can be found in several artistic institutions, both regionally and internationally. His portfolio includes over 4,000 paintings and over 3,000 stone paintings.
Born in 1944 in Khanaken, Kurdistan, Khayat drew inspiration from his environment, the pain of the Anfal episode, Kurdish folklore and symbolism. The Anfal Campaign was a counter-insurgency operation conducted in Iraq in 1988. He taught for over 24 years, while serving as the supervisor of art schools in Sulaymaniyah. He then joined the American University of Iraq, Sulaymaniyah (AUIS) as a lecturer.
His unique style, his muse, as well as his passion for teaching the arts, are explored in the SAM exhibition, which travels through the works of over six decades of his artistic practice and the impact it had on the Kurdish art scene. The exhibition features more than 130 works by Khayat, including “A Sad Face”, “Thoughts of a Person”, “Birds and Woman” from Khayat’s Perspective and “Kurdish People”. The artist has used a variety of techniques and mediums including ink, watercolour, charcoal, colored pencils, oil colors on paper, wood, stone, canvas and fabrics.
Khayat combines Kurdish folklore and symbolism, and his works encode ideas of collective struggle and political isolation. He is an inspiring figure among Kurdish intellectuals and artists and often renders his works in a naive style. Birds and fish – which abounded in the river that flowed where he lived – find an important place in his works, as well as the inescapable subject of Woman.
He uses birds as metaphors for freedom and the fragility of life. Referring to Kurdish and Iraqi folklore, it investigates the progressive socio-political isolation of the Kurdish population of Iraq. Ataya said the exhibition is in line with the Emirate of Sharjah’s and SMA’s mission to present the distinguished works of artists from the Arab region to the public and to “further promote the power of multi-faceted learning museums that inform and inspire creativity”. through unique experiences.
“Khayat’s distinctive style plays a vital role in his ability to use his artistic expression as a means of channeling socio-political topics, while amplifying the importance of the arts in self-expression and rallying communities to overcome challenges at improving their societies,” she said. A panel discussion moderated by Khayat’s son introduced the public (aged 18+) to his father’s life on October 8. In previous editions of the Lasting Impressions series of exhibitions – first launched in 2010 – works by other renowned artists have been featured.
It included works by Baya Mahieddine, Abdulqader Al Rais, Najat Makki, George Bahgoury, Adam Henein, Noor Ali Rashid, Thuraya Al Baqsami, Ismail Shammout and Tamam Al-Akhal, among others. To instill a love of the arts in the community, SMA also organizes a series of sideline activities, including the “Patterns and Colors” workshop for school students.
The activity includes a tour of the exhibit to inspire students as they engage in designing and printing a colorful pattern on a bag. SMA’s Youth Programs Department will teach young people ages 13-17 to create art using wood burning techniques during its pyrography (wood burning) workshop on November 13th.
The Authority also organized several workshops targeting people with disabilities, including the “Monotype Print” workshop which was aimed at people with cognitive impairment, autism and hearing impairment aged between 7 and 14 years old. Participants learned the technique by printing on different surfaces, such as glass and fabric. , to create works of art. The activity took place on October 12.
The Art of Portrait workshop will be held on November 12, embracing the hearing impaired, where they can learn and apply techniques to sculpt expressive faces on clay. On November 14, SMA will also organize the Design Your House workshop, which is open to people with dementia, autism and hearing impairment aged 7 to 14. During the one-hour session, participants will learn how to design their home inspired by Iraqi architecture depicted in one of Khayat’s paintings, using recycled materials such as cardboard boxes.