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

Other Resources

artfacts.net
Additional images and information - Halim Al-Karim

artnet.com
Various and images - Halim Al-Karim

robischongallery.com
Selected works and press releases from past shows:
Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim’s installations reflect his experience of exile from his homeland as well as his attempts to retain his humanity in light of unspeakable brutality. In Passage to Sumer, Al-Karim metaphorically smuggles his soul back to the times of the Sumerian civilization in ancient Iraq. This installation is a symbolic recollection upon how Al- Karim’s dreams became the shelter where his soul took refuge from the cruelty.

xvagallery.com
Representing gallery, Dubai

bmoca.org
Born in Najaf, Iraq Halim Al-Karim is a refugee living in Amsterdam. His work reflects the notion that our existence is not our destiny. Al-Karim's art is not an example of the brutality he has survived but the outward representation of the sublime dreams of his own inner world. His art offers symbolic shelter to recover from the disastrous violence of mankind.

helium.com
Short review of Halim Al Karim at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art:
The work of Halim AL-Karim is on the first floor and is reflective of Karim's childhood in Iraq. I listened to an I-Pod as I walked around the exhibit and would have been lost with out it. I find that an explanation is needed for most contemporary works. However, I became enchanted by the work of Al-Karim.

artreview.com
ZVA aspires to as international a mix as possible and over the past 10 months I've seen Syrian, Sri Lankan, Palestinian, Iranian, Greek, Pakistani, Iraqi, Lebanese, American, Saudi, British and Turkish work covering painting, photography, installation, sculpture and even furniture and fashion! The current exhibition, Coma in Paradise, is by one of the resident artists at the XVA, Iraqi born Halim Al Karim.

timeoutdubai.com
According to XVA, the gallery that represents Halim Al-Karim in Dubai, his work ‘offers symbolic shelter to recover from the disastrous violence of mankind.’ As an Iraqi artist born and bred (Al-Karim is a graduate of the Baghdad Academy of Fine Arts), it would be fair to say that he has been closer than many to mankind’s disastrous violence.