Are we there yet?

August 9 - September 5

Janet Rady Fine Art is pleased to present ‘Are we there yet?’, an online exhibition showcasing a selection of twenty unseen works from the late female Iraqi artist, Nadira Azzouz (1927 – 2020). ‘Are we there yet?’ ignites a dialogue that considers travel, journey, space and time from both a human and natural perspective. ‘Are we there yet?’ is available to view online from 9th August to 5th September 2023.

The title ‘Are we there yet?’ indicates both expectation and anticipation – it can be seen as both a literal and rhetorical question, where the there can have a definitive, ambiguous or perhaps, no real answer. It does however, put in the mind of the viewer what or where the there is.

Azzouz’s works range from more realistic figural renderings to beautifully abstract lines and forms that hint at the presence of human forms while simultaneously weaving complex layered patterns and sinuous shapes. When we look at Azzouz’ paintings we feel the warmth and vibrancy of her subject matter. Azzouz’s mastery of colour and tone – whereby once applying rich jewel-like colours against dull earthy tones lends a feeling of magnificence to her work. The paintings utilise bold colours and transformations of abstract forms that project a sense of wonder and joy.

Solo, duo and groups of figures traverse across the landscape of the canvas, and at a once one gets a sense of the themes and subject matter Azzouz interrogates in her practice: arrival, departure, movement and wonder without explicit citation. When we look at Azzouz’s paintings we consider the possibilities of travel – where, when and how will we get there? What is the destination and why are we going?


Born in Mosul in 1927, Azzouz started painting at the age of six. She would later go on to study fine art at the School of Domestic Fine Arts in Baghdad (1944-49) and continued her studies further at the Central School of Art in London (1957-60), where Azzouz gained a BA in Painting. By 1960, Azzouz staged her first solo show in Baghdad, and became an active member of the Society of Iraqi Plastic Arts.

Azzouz actively progressed her artistic training further by studying Still Life and Freehand at Cambridge, before moving to Beirut to raise her children. Like many Iraqi artists of her generation who had studied abroad, often in the West, Azzouz’s artistic practice is informed by the canon of 20th century international modernism. Simultaneously, Azzouz’s oeuvre carries a distinctively Iraqi identity, as seen in the sculpture of ancient civilisations, as well as medieval Arab illuminated manuscripts and the folk motifs of handicrafts, rugs, and textiles.

Living in Lebanon in the 1960s and 1970s, a period characterised by cultural blossoming and exchange, Azzouz took part in many solo and group shows. In 1965 and 1974, Azzouz staged solo exhibitions at Beirut’s seminal Gallery One. At the time, her large-scale works, which measured up to 3 x 2 metres, transgressed the established conventions for painting at the time. Allowing the paint on these canvases to drip on the figures and forms, her artistic practice and aesthetic expression was both abstract and explosive, and reacted to the wider socio-political environment of Lebanon. As Lebanon’s politics became increasingly fraught and chaotic, so too would her canvases. When the Lebanese Civil War became increasingly hard to bear, Azzouz with her young family moved to London in 1980.

Nadira Azzouz’s homeland of Iraq and residence in Lebanon remained deeply ingrained in her artistic practice and theoretical approach. Her love for the Arab world, ancient Sumerian and Assyrian civilisations, medieval Arab manuscript illumination, motifs in textiles, and literature continued to play a central role in her canvases till the end of her life.

Azzouz was recently the posthumous subject of Dubai-based Cultural Art Advisor, Myrna Ayad’s monthly “Remembering the Artist” column in The National, to read the article, Click here

Her works can be found in the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, as well as prominent private international collections.

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