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Posted On: 27 April 2015 05:42 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:15 pm

Renowned portrait artist Ismail Azzam celebrates late and great Arab artists in new exhibition

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A new exhibition from one of Iraq’s best-known artists, Ismail Azzam, is coming to the Qatar Museums (QM) Gallery in Katara from Sunday 26th April – Monday 31st August.


Presented by Qatar Museums under the leadership of its Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, this major exhibition entitled ‘For Them’ showcases Ismail Azzam's distinctive ‘reverse charcoal’ portraits of painters and sculptors who have made a significant contribution to the Arab Art world, with the entire body of work created exclusively for this show.

The show features a selection of striking and emotive charcoal portraits, celebrating and honouring the work of 15 past masters. Ismail Azzam knew many of those featured in the exhibition personally and created the exhibition to celebrate their significant artistic and creative contributions, believing many did not receive the critical recognition or popular appreciation they deserved whilst they were alive.

The exhibition features portraits of artists drawn from across the entire Middle East including Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and Kuwait and Iraq. A portrait of the late Qatari artist Jassim Zaini is also presented in the exhibition. Throughout a five-decade long career, Jassim Zaini’s paintings captured key moments in Qatar’s recent history and documented the country’s development from humble beginnings, as well as its social and economic transformation during the fifties and the sixties after the discovery of oil.

By presenting the exhibition, Azzam’s intention is both to educate and inform the public about the artists’ major accomplishments as well as highlight the hardships that a number of them experienced during their lives.

Commenting on the exhibition, Ismail Azzam said:

“I am hugely honoured to present my work at QM Gallery. With this exhibition, I hope both to raise awareness of these great Arab artists and their stories, but also to continue to educate Qatar’s growing artistic community to understand the meaning behind the art. I invite everyone to enjoy this exhibition and honour the huge and important contribution these figures have made to the development of Arab art.”

Though Azzam also uses oil and watercolour in his artworks, he is particularly highly regarded for his mastery of the distinctive technique known as ‘reverse charcoal drawing’. During this process, the whole canvas is first covered in charcoal, then slowly etched away using a rubber to accentuate contrasting shades of light and dark and create a range of dramatic effects. The skilful manner in which he has captured the likenesses of these artistic and creative figures in his portraits helps to familiarise audiences with their individual stories and personal histories.

Jean-Paul Engelen, QM Director of Public Art said:

“We are very fortunate to present these inspirational portraits by Ismail Azzam in Qatar this year. Ismail is an incredible technically gifted artist who created these portraits exclusively for the show. His work engages onlookers in what is both an emotional and personal tribute to 15 late and great Arab painters and sculptors. We hope that this exhibition helps to educate audiences across Qatar on the lives and artistic contribution made by these important and artistic figures.”

Ismail is of Iraqi origin, and moved to Doha in 1996 to work as a painter for the Arab Museum of Modern Art, the National Council of Culture, and most recently Qatar Museums as Curator at the Orientalist Museum collection. Azzam’s works have featured in Qatar a number of times in the past. In 2005, his solo exhibition was showcased as part of the Doha Cultural Festival and in 2010 his works were displayed at the Al Markhiya gallery. This year, his works are being displayed at QM’s 555 exhibition, currently on show at the Doha’s old Civil Defence building, which has been renovated to create a new Artist in Residence programme and exhibition space.

Ismail Azzam: For Them is on view at Qatar Museums Gallery Katara from 26th April to 31st August 2015.