LONDON - To coincide with our series of talks and exhibitions dedicated to the art of the Middle East, my good friend and colleague, Ashkan Baghestani, has been fortunate enough to talk to some of the artists involved about their work. Here, he discusses politics, exile and the artistic approach with Mahmoud Obaidi, a mixed-media contemporary artist from Baghdad.
Mahmud Obaidi’s Farewell Kiss, 2012. Estimate $10,000 – 15,000.
Ashkan Baghestani: What is your artistic background?
Mahmoud Obaidi: I have combined many artistic approaches – beginning with sculpture and painting, I then shifted into filmmaking, then to conceptual art and video production. At the moment, I am stuck somewhere in between all of these practices. From a more formal educational standpoint, I received an MFA from the University of Guelph Canada.
AB: What defines and differentiates your artistic practice from other artists from the region?
MO: Politics are the key component of my work, and the research I conduct differentiates me from other artists in the region. I am originally from an area that has been through turbulent times. Therefore, my work and research result in a commentary on these subjects through the media I work with.
AB: Do you consider yourself an ‘exiled’ artist?
MO: Yes, in a way – I don’t really feel that I am from this violent Iraq we see today, but also I don’t feel I belong anywhere else. Having left Iraq, though, I sometimes feel disconnected from my country’s social and artistic evolution.
AB: To what extent has the recent turmoil in Iraq influenced your body of work?
MO: It has influenced my work to the fullest extent, to be honest. I try to deliberately explore other themes, countries and tragedies. In the past I tried to avoid making work that involves political and social commentary, but I was not successful in distancing myself from my country and its hardships.
The Contemporary Art sale will take place on 13 October in Doha.