LONDON - It’s time to head to Battersea again. An artist with an impressive pedigree – both professional and personal – is having a first UK solo show at Edge of Arabia. Former artist-in-residence at the National Portrait Gallery (2011) and the British Museum (2007-9), Athier Mousawi, son of renowned architect El Mousawi and his artist wife Faraj, has produced a striking new series of work based on the central symbol of the Portuguese man-of-war, a highly sophisticated ‘colonial’ organism which is made up of many separate parts incapable of independent survival. This creature has evolved to perfect the ability to hunt, kill, and destroy. Sound familiar?

Athier Mousawi’s Man of War 6.

The machinery of war has haunted more than one artist addressing the themes and issues of the contemporary Middle East. Athier’s current work is particularly engaging in that it draws upon a range of influences – from European Modernism (traces of Cubism and tentative references to Guernica) to contemporary Iraqi art. Athier’s attention to detail originates perhaps in his training as an illustrator at Central St Martins, b0ut the boldness of his quasi-abstract compositions are infused with a colour and vibrancy that hark to Iraqi traditions and the light of the Middle East. Edge of Arabia and Ayyam Gallery have yet again identified an artist whose expressive reach has much to offer. These dense, painterly works are replete with thought-provoking detail – human teeth, eyes, and the recognizably Modernist, symbolic ‘hand’ – drawing the attention to layer after layer of meaning and possibility. Clearly popular in Dubai, Athier has made inroads on the European front through exhibitions in Paris and a presence in London where he lives between the two cities. A strong believer in education, he has led art workshops in refugee camps in Beirut, Istanbul and Amman.

Athier Mousawi’s Man of War 8.

With his iconic style that explores the notions of fluidity and human destruction, Athier’s work speaks to the widest audience. At one level these are bold, colourful abstracts of great visual appeal, at another they are unsettling statements that speak of a churning, fragmented reality that is the stuff of nightmares.