Athier Mousawi: Melting a False Monument

May 30 - June 30

Melting a False Monument 14, 2023

Acrylic on raw linen
150 x 205 cm
59 x 80 3/4 in

Melting a False Monument is part of an ongoing series Athier began in Paris in 2018 that challenges the primacy of the public monument and questions their role within society. Though monuments stand with an invincible permanence, Mousawi considers their perceived ideological and physical stability as in fact, the very opposite: ephemeral, temporary, momentary and even false. For Mousawi, the brutal materials used to build monuments [steel, bronze and stone] are all unapologetically solid, imperishable and indestructible; they stand as monolithic shrines that cannot be challenged. Yet the ideas behind can crumble and the ideologies, like all societal constructs, can melt.

 In this new series of paintings, each one numbered chronologically and titled Melting a False Monument 1-14 (with an additional 7 smaller works titled Small Moments 1-7) Mousawi’s canvases pile up tonally energetic forms within bombastic yet precarious compositions that jumble together to form surrealist landscapes. As such the sculptural objects within them read as false monuments, on the verge of collapse or perhaps melting into the calm ocean below. The compositions maintain some sort of architectural integrity, yet are abstracted just beyond the point of reality to a place where gravity and time do not exist. What feels like a stream of light moves through a block of marble, which flows into colour gradients of moving strips of plastic and so on.  

Over recent years, Athier has created work from an array of different studios, each one lending a different layer to his practice: Beirut, Istanbul, Paris, New York, London and currently, Los Angeles, which is where this entire body of work was created.  Indeed, immersing himself in the aesthetic dichotomies which exist within the city has been extremely formative. Mexican fabrics and colourful toys in street markets, the calm, cleansing and unforgiving movement of the Pacific ocean, street graffiti, textural sculptures by Kenneth Price and Frank Stella and the bizarre and beautiful flowering cacti which can look almost alien to a non native have all found their way into his compositions. After the meditative and subdued colour palettes found in his last two solo shows Fade and Float (CAP Kuwait, 2019) and Nothing is Certain, Everything is Melting and That’s Okay (Ayyam Gallery, 2020) the vibrancy and playfulness which was once synonymous with the artist’s paintings are very much back with full force.

Click here for the exhibition catalogue.

About the artist

 Athier Mousawi (b. London, 1982) studied an MA in Illustration and Design at Central Saint Martin’s in London before moving to Paris in 2010 to begin his journey as a painter at the Cité Internationale Des Art.  He is the son of Iraqi sculptor and painter Maysaloun Faraj and renowned architect Ali Mousawi, Athier’s practice has always oscillated between representation of structure and form and expressive colour and mark making. He has become known for a style that draws on a range of influences, from European Modernism to contemporary Iraqi art. In recent years his work has been about letting go and allowing space to enter his compositions, which echo and embrace the floating nature of uncertainty of the world around him.

Athier has had numerous solo and group exhibitions including Ayyam Gallery, Dubai (2020, 2018, 2016); Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait (2019); Ayyam Gallery, Beirut (2015); Edge Of Arabia Projects, London (2014); Ayyam Gallery, London (2014); Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, Dubai (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010); National Portrait Gallery, London (2011); The Royal Academy, London (2011); Tashkent International Biennale, Uzbekistan (2011), among others.

Athier is based between London, Paris and Los Angeles.

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