Kitabat a'la jidar raqam (1) (Writings on the Wall number (1))
signed and dated in Arabic (lower left); signed, titled and dated in Arabic (on the reverse)
oil on board
39 x 35in. (99 x 89cm.)
Painted in 1978
Sultan Gallery, Kuwait.
Private Collection, Kuwait.
Private Collection, Kuwait (gifted by the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Kuwait City, Gallery Sultan, Shaker Hassan, 1978.
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Lot Essay

Painted in 1978, Kitabat a’la jidar raqam 1 (Writings on the Wall number 1) by Shaker Hassan Al Said, the pioneering modern Iraqi artist, is part of the iconic Wall series – one the best-known and sought-after periods in the painter’s oeuvre. In the mid-1960s, Shaker Hassan began to experiment with traditional Arab script in his paintings. The artist explored new readings of pure Sufi mystical concepts with Western existentialist philosophical theories. These explorations brought him to gradually abandon figurative expression, bringing his work closer to abstraction and contemplation. This evolution, embodied in his wall paintings, took place whilst violence and war overcame in Iraq. The impact of deterioration, war, and death in the life of the artist – and Iraqi society – becomes tangible through the deconstructed and fissured composition of his technique, the abstraction in the lettering, and the chromatic density of the palette.

Exploring the endless possibilities in the line and the Arabic letter, the artist searched for the spiritual while deconstructing the meaning of art. His One Dimension theory produced an innovative approach to the rejection of three-dimensionality by digging deeper within the internal dimension, perceiving the work of art as infinite and seeing the work of art as infinite and a result of human expression. Focusing on the eternity of the surface, he turned away from the stylized calligraphy of his contemporaries and focused on the gestural patterns found in the city walls, witness to centuries of history.

Exhibited at the artist’s first solo show at the iconic Sultan Gallery in Kuwait in 1978, the work reflects the artist’s exploration into the Arabic letter after establishing the One Dimension Group. Shaker Hassan is one of Iraq’s most influential and prolific artists, who co-founded in 1951 the Baghdad Modern Art Group with artist Jewad Selim, which first introduced modernist ideas into Iraq.

­­Between 1955-1959, Shaker Hassan obtained a scholarship to study in Paris at the Académie Julian, the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He later returned to Baghdad, where he taught history at the Institute of Fine Arts from 1970-80. He then began his writings on art, including the Contemplative Art Manifesto (1966) and One Dimension theory (1971). Shaker Hassan participated in shows at Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City; Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, and Institut du monde arabe, Paris; Venice Biennale, Venice; and National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, among others. His works are found in institutional collections such as Barjeel Art Collection, Sharjah; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Museum of Modern Art Baghdad; and Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, among others.

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