Erbil – Dubai: Chasing Utopia
XVA Gallery DIFC marks the month of November with a remarkable exhibition by Kurdish Iraqi artist Walid Siti. This exhibition coincides with the return of the Iraq Pavilion to the 54th Venice Biennale between June and November 2011, marking an incredible benchmark in placing Iraqi artists back on the global contemporary art stage, with Walid Siti being one of the six leading artists exhibiting.
In his upcoming exhibition at the XVA Gallery, Walid Siti, a Kurdish Iraqi, British based
artist, who came of age in the 1970s during the period of the creation of political socialism,
draws upon the parallels between the transformation of the ancient city of Erbil and that of
the ever changing Dubai city landscape. His exhibition entitled ‘Erbil – Dubai: Chasing
Utopia’ encapsulates the struggle of city trying to keep hold of its identity in an ever
changing and aspirational world and includes engaging installations, paintings, sculptures
and drawings from Walid’s new body of work.
Through the eyes of an artist, Walid notes that many places in Erbil are named after Dubai
landmarks: Rotana, Empire World, Dream city, Marina, Dubai’s Bazaar. Walid considers,
that after decades of war and oppression, the city of Erbil is witnessing a major change, with
cranes filling the city’s skyline, and the construction of the new in full swing… “Erbil is
transforming beyond recognition.”
In this body of work comprising of drawings, paintings, sculpture and installation, Walid
attempts to convey the sense of confusion and perhaps utopia involved, and the concern he
has for its environmental and social impact in Erbil. Through the use of uniformity of
physical forms, using the city grid as formal element and incorporating various symbols
drawn from the culture, Walid’s work attempts to capture the discrete but interconnected
elements that mark the global connections in this trend, including the power and economic
strength shaping the city.
Visually, Walid sees the vanishing role of Erbil’s citadel as focal point – something that has
metaphorically bonded the fabric of society and shaped the city’s character for centuries –
marking the end of an era. The lack of debate and the serious consideration given to the
unique character, history, environment, social and cultural aspects of society, takes the
whole experiment, in Walid Siti’s view to the edge of utopia.
Arab artists are continuing to captivate audiences around the world with their desire to tell
stories through artistic interpretation and creative flair. To a curious audience gazing
towards the recent struggles and adversity of the Middle East, Walid Siti’s work represents a
time when the Middle East is going through a significant transformation and period of