Selected works by Halim Al-Karim

Halim Al-Karim
Hidden War

1985

Lambda print

138 x 324 cm
Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim underwent a harrowing experience during the first Gulf War. Opposing Saddam’s regime and its compulsory military service he took to hiding in the desert, living for almost 3 years in a hole in the ground covered by a pile of rocks. He survived only through the assistance of a Bedouin woman who brought him food and water and taught him about gypsy customs and mysticism. Al-Karim has since emigrated to America, however, these events have had a profound effect on his life and form the basis for his art practice.
Halim Al-Karim
Hidden Face

1995

Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

In this body of work, Al-Karim presents a series of triptychs, each comprised of three faces. Some are well known figures, such as Saddam Hussein in Hidden Face, others are film stills, artworks, or artifacts. Presented as enlarged panels their distortion is compounded,
raising the question not of what they represent but of their deeper meaning and interconnectivity. Hidden Face was made in 1995, years before the famous photo of Saddam in custody; the figure is in fact made up, based on how Al-Karim imagined the dictator would look in the future. The two flanking out of focus figures are suggestive of world leaders – still in power – whose support of Saddam’s regime has been forgotten. Al-Karim has blurred their identities to show the duplicity of their motives, scripting them as anonymous accomplices who will never stand trial.

Halim Al-Karim
Hidden Prisoner

1993

Lambda print

158 x 369 cm
In this series of work, photography is used for its non-physical qualities: a medium which quite literally creates an image from light, capturing the transient and interwoven nature of time and
memory. The Sumerian artifacts featured in Al-Karim’s Hidden Prisoner and Hidden Goddess were photographed in the Louvreand the British Museum; Al-Karim describes seeing them internedbehind glass, far away from their home, as a painful reminder ofvisiting his friends and family who were held as political prisonersat Abu Ghraib during Saddam’s regime.
Halim Al-Karim
Hidden Theme

1995

Lambda print

138 x 300 cm
Al-Karim’s Hidden series is a response to the artists own unimaginable experiences and his ongoing observances of the turbulences in his homeland. With pieces titled Hidden War, Hidden Victims, Hidden Witnesses, Al-Karim raises the awareness of not only the devastating effects of violence, but its many manifestations - both physical and psychological – from the political to the economic and domestic. His works adopt a skewed sense of scale and resolve to conceptually shift between the macro and the micro, the societal and individual, physical and emotive, offering a tranquil and meditative pause and space for reflection and catharsis.
Halim Al-Karim
Hidden Victims

2008

Lambda print

186 x 372 cm
Al-Karim merges aspects of Sufism - such as the belief in Divine Unity - with obsolete traditions, especially those of ancient Sumer, the grand empire which ruled in what is now Iraq from 6000-4000 BC. Sumerian symbols often appear in his images, and his photographs of women are in part inspired by a ritual which could elevate girls to the status of goddesses.
Halim Al-Karim
Prisoner Goddess

1993

Lambda print

124 x 372 cm
Al-Karim’s approach to image-making is as an outward projection of his inner-consciousness and a visual manifestation of spiritual awakening and serenity. His evasive dream-like images evoke a range of instinctual emotive responses, the ability of true perception existing as a preternatural power within each of us, which can be understood and harnessed through the pursuit of metaphysical enlightenment.
Halim Al-Karim
Hidden Witnesses

2007

Lambda print

138 x 300 cm
Halim Al-Karim
Hidden Doll

2008

Lambda print covered with white silk

200 x 360 cm
In pieces such as Hidden Doll, Al-Karim presents his photographs beneath a tautly stretched layer of white silk fabric that operates as both a physical veil masking the portraits and a metaphorical filter or screen. This ’barrier’ between viewer and image can be conceived as a liminal space, a transcendental portal between being and becoming, where the mystical properties of change take place.
Halim Al-Karim
Hidden War 2

2003

Lambda print covered with white silk

200 x 330 cm
Themes of reconciliation are central to Al-Karim’s work, both emotionally and in relation to Sufi tradition, where faith is inwardly focused and strives for unity between consciousness and God.
Contradictions and juxtapositions occur within his photos, but rather than creating tension, they have harmonious effect. As faces line up: beautiful and garish, monstrous and innocent, wizened and puerile, they form single conglomerate portraits, each segment completing the next, contributing to the understanding of the whole. In Hidden War 2, Al-Karim has covered his images with a transparent layer of cloth, urging the viewer to consider the hidden agendas behind the legitimising rhetoric of those who support the war

Articles

Halim Al-Karim, Kris Cox and Christopher Morris

The spring season gets off to a vibrant start at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.
By Michael Paglia
Published on April 05, 2007


I was talking with an artist friend the other day, and as usual, the topic was current aesthetic trends. He told me how tired he is of all the art that looks like minimalism but actually isn't. Sometimes this kind of thing goes by the name of post-minimalism, which is a sensibility that's been all the rage for a decade.

His remark made me realize how thoroughly I disagree with him, because I think taking simple forms and jam-packing them with details and concepts is an almost sure-fire formula for successful contemporary work. Post-minimalism is just too rich a visual vein not to tap over and over, and the more-is-less philosophy leads to art that covers a wide range of interests and a variety of looks.

The two shows on the first floor of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Halim Al-Karim/Passage to Sumer in the West Gallery and Kris Cox/New Work in the East Gallery, are good examples of this post-minimal trend. These two artists are working in different materials and to very different ends, yet both create work that's simple and complicated at the same time. And using that clever combination, they both succeed in creating compelling pieces. Not only that, but pairing them, as BMoCA's associate curator, Kirsten Gerdes, has done, produces a tremendous harmony, with the Al-Karim show flowing beautifully into the Cox exhibit.

Al-Karim was born in 1963 in Najaf, Iraq. He attended the Baghdad Academy of Fine Arts, where he earned a BFA in 1988. In 1991, he left Iraq for Jordan and then Amsterdam, where he attended the Gerrit Reitveld Academy, graduating in 1999. He moved to Denver last year. For the past ten years, his work has been exhibited in the Middle East, Europe and the U.S., including at Denver's Robischon Gallery.
Despite Al-Karim's background, his solo at BMoCA does not in any perceivable way refer to the war. In fact, the effects of his installations are the opposite of those evoked by current television-news images of his birthplace. Al-Karim conjures up a delicate, lyrical environment that contrasts mightily with the death and destruction now commonplace in Iraq. The only hint that anything is wrong is a single sentence in his artist's statement indicating that he has lost everything.

Since the show is called Passage to Sumer, we are tipped off that Al-Karim is referring to the ancient Sumerians, who were among the earliest civilizations on earth and who happened to be situated in what is now Iraq, at the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The exhibit presents an atmosphere that's something like an exotic walled garden from the remote past. All around are bright, sunny colors and glimmering surfaces.

Read the entire article here
Source: westword.com


Developing an artistic flair in the United Arab Emirates

Foreign, contemporary artists are getting a bigger stage. Nudity is rare, and themes of oppression are common.

By Suzanne Muchnic
May 4, 2008


Dubai, United Arab Emirates - It's a quiet Sunday morning in this city of cacophonous ambition. Construction has yet to hit a deafening pitch, and traffic is still moving. But, as the temperature rises, all sorts of art activity bubbles up in the historic Bastakiya district, a low-lying island of traditional Arabian houses in a sea of modern high-rises.

At the hub of Bastakiya's walled complex, XVA Gallery - a contemporary art showcase with an eight-room guesthouse and a vegetarian cafe - offers an international array of works, mostly by Middle Eastern artists, in a series of rooms surrounding a square courtyard.

Gallery owner Mona Hauser, an American expatriate, and Fereydoun Ave, an Iranian artist and dealer who recently joined forces with her, give drop-in visitors an impromptu tour.

Among the attractions: headless metal figures with perforated bodies by Halim Al Karim of Iraq, an installation combining a projected image of a woman's lips with a carpet of bright red men's hats by Hilda Hiary of Jordan, digital photographs of childhood "demons" transformed into grotesque cartoons by Malekeh Nayiny of France and Iran.

Next door at Sauce, an arty boutique favored by trendsetters with a taste for the quirky and outrageous, are Pop-flavored novelties and fluffy dresses that look like out-of-control flower gardens.
About 20 other spaces, in a maze-like arrangement, are occupied by participants in the Creek Art Fair, a showcase for emerging talent that has settled into Bastakiya for a couple of weeks.

Organized by XVA and named for Dubai Creek, the city's central waterway, the Creek Art Fair is a spinoff of Art Dubai, the 2-year-old fair held each spring at a luxurious seaside resort and scheduled next year for March 17 to 21.

At the relatively low-key Creek event, galleries and design studios show their wares in interior spaces originally used as dwellings.

Artists' projects, such as "Open Shutters" - a photographic record of 12 Iraqi women's lives, organized by British photojournalist Eugenie Dolberg - pop up along walkways and on exterior walls.

All of which adds up to a mélange of sights and experiences that defies stereotypes. The subject matter of the art is somewhat restrained, as expected. Nudity and sex rarely appear. Yet there's no shortage of political and social commentary that alludes to the devastation of war and the challenges of living under repressive governments.

And the fashion police are not in charge here. Stylish clerks at Sauce sport tank tops and cargo pants, as does Nadine Kanso, a Lebanese artist whose photo-and-text mural about the sad state of Beirut fills walls of a nearby courtyard. But in the same area, female art students from Zayed University who are working on a public study of color preferences wear traditional black robes -- and, occasionally, big sunglasses. Mixing duty with pleasure, the students ask passersby to play a board game intended to reveal their favorite color combinations, chat with Kanso and photograph each other with her mural.

Read the entire article here
Source: latimes.com