Moments in Time:
Nadira Azzouz

April 27 - May 25

Janet Rady Fine Art is pleased to present ‘Moments in Time’, an online exhibition showcasing a selection of 20 works by the late female Iraqi artist, Nadira Azzouz (1927-2020).

Azzouz’s oeuvre exudes an overwhelming optimism, whether through family portraits, depicting an intimate couple, individual sitters and landscapes. The works utilize bold colours and transformations of abstract forms that project a sense of wonder and joy. When we observe her paintings, we hear the sound of music playing, we see the dynamism of moving dancers, and smell the perfumed scents of summer that generate the excitement of new beginnings.

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 (1944-4) and continue 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, Nadira Azzouz’s artistic practice is informed by the canon of 20th century international modernism, yet fused with a distinctively Iraqi identity, as found in sculpture of ancient civlisations, 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 explosive and abstract, and reflected the wider socio-political environment of Lebanon. As the political situation became increasingly tense, chaos would appear at the bottom of her canvas, and as the conflict of the Lebanese Civil war crept into the marrow of society, it too, seeped into her paintings. When the situation 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.

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

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.


Exhibition text by Luli Gibbs

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