Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Kurdish painter Rebwar Saeed on his colorful career | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rebwar Saeed with his work.

Rebwar Saeed with his work.

Rebwar Saeed with his work.

Suleimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdish artist Rebwar Saeed has donated the profits from sales of his paintings at a recent exhibition in Suleimaniyah, Kurdistan, to Kurdish Syrians from Kobani—a Syrian town currently witnessing fierce battles between Peshmerga troops and the People’s Protection Units, commonly known as the YPG, on the one hand, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), on the other.

Saeed has been working for thirty years as an artist yet refuses to be an affiliate of any specific school of art. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat he explained that fine art gives him free rein to adapt his style without limitations. “Fine art is the house that I feel is my own. I do not want to depict reality as it is, but rather to depict a reality that features human values.” He said, adding, “I am also interested in nature, birds, animals and rivers—all my work encompasses these elements.”

Saeed was born in 1962 in Suleimaniyah, the cultural capital of Kurdistan. He has been painting since a young age—a skill he said he has struggled to perfect throughout his life.

He added that colors are particularly significant in his work. “[Colors] have special importance to me. However, they are not a fixed element in all my work. In the past when the Iraqi fighter jets were shelling us [at the end of the First Gulf War], I used gray to indicate happy days because the jets were unable to see us in cloudy weather. The miserable days were represented by the colors of a clear sky and bright sun because on those days we were [bombarded by jet fire].”

However, he says “After coming to Europe, I used vivid colors again to express happiness in my paintings. In my project 5000 Portraits 5000 Victims, I assigned the colors of happiness and life to the victims because I wanted to emphasize that the war should not take those colors away.”

Saeed undertook his Master’s and PhD degrees in fine art in London, where he lived for a number of years. He has also held several exhibitions across Europe as well as in Japan. “My Master’s focused on words and color since over 300 poets from around the world have written poems about my paintings.” Speaking of his experience in London he said “Life in London has greatly influenced my work. I learned a great deal about standards of art in terms of structure, display, technique and quality.” Yet, he adds, “an artist’s painting should always be focused on their homeland as it is an important and constant source of art.”

Discussing his technique the painter said, “I need time until the project is ripe and mature in my mind. I also need to be alone until the project is ready.” He added: “My paintings tell their own stories. I’m currently working on a project about the birds in Kurdistan that always fall out of the sky from chemical weapons poisoning. I’m also considering another painting about nature falling victim to human beings.”

When asked about his role as an ambassador of Kurdistan in the art world, Saeed said “A cultural bridge has already been built between Kurdistan and the rest of the world. After twenty years of efforts by a group of Kurdish and French artists and academics to establish a contemporary art museum in Suleimaniyah, construction work has now been completed. The museum contains dozens of donated paintings by world artists. It is considered one of the most important cultural bridges between the two sides.”

After completing his PhD, Saeed was appointed Dean of the Fine Art College in Suleimaniyah University, a position which he still holds. Besides this, he has a number of major art projects in the pipeline “I have several ideas, the most important of which is to have a piece of work in the Contemporary Art Museum, which is my life’s dream, and to publish my life memoirs which I have been working on for twenty years.”