Criticism & Press
Iraqi artist's goddess sculpture a tribute to ancient culture of love Inanna statue at the the luxury hotel ‘Kempinski Ishtar’ in Jordan.
By Wendy John 27 DEC 2018
SBS TV & Radio Australia
“This is my message. We have love, we know how to love.’”
Day and night, for three months, Sumer Al Hindawi carved away at a massive boulder from the Jordanian desert. He worked up to 20 hours a day on the dense halabat stone. What emerged from the boulder was divine. A 7.5 tonne sculpture of the world’s oldest known female deity – Inanna, goddess of love and war. Sumer Al Hindawi has a long history with the goddess. Born and raised in Iraq, Al Hindawi was named after his ancestors - the Sumerians. They worshipped the goddess 4500 years ago in Mesopotamia, now Iraq. “The history of Mesopotamia is full of love,” Al Hindawi said. “People from east and west, they follow the media, they think Iraq is like a desert and nothing there. And I'm saying ‘No. There's a love there that's 7,000 years old!’” Al Hindawi challenges Western perceptions about the formerly war-torn country also with his art. Choosing the goddess Inanna for his recent sculpture is a proclamation of love and transformation. “This is my message,” said Al Hindawi, ‘we have love, we know how to love.’” The sculpture is inspired by a famous myth; Inanna’s passion for war hero Gilgamesh. Inanna proposes. Gilgamesh rejects her. Inanna sends the ‘Bull of Heaven’ to smite him. But Al Hindawi has defied 4000 years of convention. He’s re-written the final scenes of this tale and given the feuding lovers a happy ending. The ‘Inanna’ sculpture entwines them in an eternal kiss. “Art is an international language that anyone can understand or even feel,” Al Hindawi said. “I put a love story behind this international language and go from there.” Love stories were the domain of the goddess Inanna and her sexual power were honoured millennia ago. “Inanna actually sings songs of praise to her own vulva,” said Macquarie University historian Dr Louise Pryke. “She really celebrates her feminine sexuality. And Inanna is wonderfully complex. She screams like a bird of prey when she doesn't get her own way.” “I think the world today needs Inanna,” Dr Pryke said. “Recently, with the #metoo movement, we’ve seen this focus on powerful women. Inanna is the original powerful woman. Sometimes she's fighting for justice. But sometimes she gets jealous or a little bit greedy. It’s great to bring more complexity into how we perceive women and how they are perceived from the time of the world's earliest records.” supplied Ancient statuette possibly representing Inanna, also known as Ishtar. Source: Supplied In ancient texts Inanna is exalted for being as impressive in the bedroom as she is in on battlefield. In Jordan, a predominantly Islamic country, the powerful female representation is embraced, as long modesty isn’t compromised. “Islamic culture have their rules about nudity for public areas. But if artists submit a figurative, contemporary or abstract sculpture it will be welcomed - like our case with ‘Inanna’,” Al Hindawi said. Al Hindawi studied Middle Eastern arts and culture at Baghdad University. But shortly after graduating in 2000, he was forced to flee the country and culture that inspired his work, in the wake of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. “It started not being safe for artists. There were thousands of people that got killed, for no reason,” Al Hindawi said. “My friend was killed. Someone put a bomb in his studio. But it wasn’t just artists, anyone who held the culture was targeted.” With his heavily pregnant wife and pre-school daughter, Al Hindawi fled to Jordan in 2003. They had only $1300 to their name. “You know, at that time I was so calm.” Al Hindawi said. “I trusted myself. I thought, ‘I don't know what to do, but I will do something’.” His optimism paid off.
From Jordan, Al Hindawi’s family were welcomed by Canada as refugees. It was in Canada that his multi-media approach to sculpture attracted attention. The 42-year-old’s work now features in private collections and state archives across the globe. Outside of Canada, he’s most prolific and famous in the Middle East. The recent Inanna statue was commissioned by the luxury hotel ‘Kempinski Ishtar’ in Jordan. The sculpture overlooks a new events terrace alongside the shimmering Dead Sea. “It’s a popular place for weddings” said Al Hindawi. A location that would surely please a goddess like Inanna.
Sumer AlHindawi – Voyage in the Turquoise Valleys of Ancient Iraq
Dr. Hashim AlTawil
It was in 2006 when I had the opportunity to review in depth some of Sumer’s original artworks in sculpture, painting, and mixed media. Since then I have been following up on Sumer’s works through various venues. His works reveal striking Iraqi cultural identity that resumes the ancient Iraqi pictorial art tradition with the contemporary visual trends yet they lend themselves easily to embrace the global world of visual language. Born and raised in the midst of artistic and cultural tradition Sumer grew watching, assimilating, and analyzing the monumental works of his father Suhail Al‐Hindawi, and his uncle the late Nizar Al‐Hindawi, two well known Iraqi artists with solid technical and artistic ability in both painting and sculpture. Sumer’s formal training at both the Institute and the College of Fine Arts in Baghdad further strengthened his artistic concept and technical knowledge and facilitated his endeavor for potential technical and conceptual experimentations.
Sumer’s Narratives are arranged and displayed on a flat platform reminiscent of scenes and happening on Sumerian cylinder seals. Figures are interacting, intermingling, and interrelating with other elements in the composition‐ creating an unbroken serious notion of happening. In other words, there is the haunting feeling of eyes staring at the audience: eyes of ancient Iraqi faces descended from temples palaces and tombs in Uruk, Warka, Ur, Nippur, Babylon, and Ninevah and traveled the time to land on the surface of Sumer’s work. He celebrates the recall of Iraq and the rebirth of its cultural glory in a well‐structured visual operation. Sumer has successfully brought back important esthetic elements from Mesopotamian diverse culture, and reassembled them in an appealing modern taste, hence bridging over 5000 years of civilization and human visual expressive tradition.
Both traditional and unconventional techniques are found in the work of Sumer Al‐ Hindawi. He uses common stylistic presentation in his composition of mostly relief sculpture but also experiments with other techniques such as painted three-dimensional surfaces. His works reveal a wealth of experience with different fabrics, textures, and visual illusions. Sumer has an interesting visual arrangement of both colors and forms in the compositions. Human figures and abstract forms are planned and organized on the surface of his work; Figures and their surrounding abstractive elements support the visual composition creating vigorous event and
narratives enhanced by complementing colors and texture. His work is simply pleasing visual scenery.
Sumer’s works reveal two striking qualities that can be detected in the works of few other contemporary Arab and Iraqi artists: modernity and the genuinely rooted cultural identity. Wile his style lends itself easily to the modern visual language where he communicates his imagery through standard iconographical visual traditions, yet the details of this visual experiment uncover more appealing quality.
It is his choice of figurative representation, forms, objects, texture, and colors that gear the viewer’s attention to the cultural identity in his work. An uninterrupted line of visual narratives originated in the deep roots of ancient Iraqi art and continues through phases of pre‐Islamic Arabic visual language, Islamic culture, to the contemporary reinterpreted Arab art. Perhaps this stylistic/technical bridging is the most significant value in Sumer’s artistic journey. Like contemporary artists of his generation, Sumer entertains the global visual craze in the use of styles, techniques, and even the fashionable trends of certain visual clichés. However these fashionable trends do not overpower his work; He rather utilizes them to serve his own structure, creating visually appealing and aesthetically attractive composition.
In certain monumental works, Sumer introduces faces, human figures, appearances, and human objects framed and compartmentalized in confined spaces while other figures are waiting in agony, distress, and silent suffering. Perhaps an implicit
account of a displaced eyewitness reflecting on the destruction and suffering of Iraq and the Iraqi people who have been overpowered by wars, social disfiguration, invasion, and continued violence. Nevertheless, these figures display resilience and hope for better tomorrow.
Dr. Hashim AlTawil
Professor and chair of Art History program
Henry Ford Community College, Michigan, USA
Characteristic of Open Text
Editor of plastic Magazine /Baghdad 2010
The artist, Sumer Al-Hindawi’s contribution to Plastic art is considered an integral part of the Iraqi experience in contemporary art. It represents a new addition to both levels of formal structures and the use of diversified raw materials. The objective of this work also focuses primarily on the content, since the value of such a pictorial structure encompasses the mechanisms of communication and reflects an obvious interaction with the effects of daily events. This, in turn, establishes substantial ties between the subjective and objective. Therefore, what are the distinguishing characteristics of Sumer Suhail Al-Hindawi’s works?
- The viewer finds himself facing giant paintings, that can be displayed either horizontally or vertically, given that they have been painted according to the basic foundations of art design that, in turn, conform to set standards. These paintings also attach importance to the formation of patterns and pictorial units, whether they involve colored paint, two-dimensional models using protrusions or three-dimensional methods embodied with masculine or feminine human attributes. It seems that the artist was in dire need to amplify the effect of the power of expression and to work on repetitive life experiences in an attempt to humanize the pictorial items and units. This, in turn, gives the observer the opportunity to interact with the paintings, and to free his imagination, by exchanging roles between himself and the painting in an objective balanced way.
-Perhaps the liberal utilization of different materials within one piece of artwork is an artistic and technical work pattern used since ancient times. It is indeed a familiar pattern accepted and adopted by modern artists, however, Sumer Al-Hindawi, confirmed the feasibility of this style of work through his personal touch. A touch supported by great experience in the fields of design, innovative forms, selection of items and the ability to alter or modify while maintaining the overriding interesting points.
-It is a well agreed upon fact that artistic work is based on the science of the three elements of art: the materials, as intermediary tools of what the artist experienced or lived through, the form, as an appropriate way to translate the artist’s feelings, intuitions and thoughts and the final expression, which is the final outcome for these elements crystallizing the artist’s objectives and aims in a competent and conscious way. This, of course, cannot be achieved without taking into consideration the importance of maintaining harmony and a working towards a cohesive objective.
In this context, we believe that the artist, Sumer Al-Hindawi, focuses on the importance of tangible materials, whether they are originally intended for painting or other raw materials not related to art but which can be appropriately utilized to fit this purpose. In addition, there is the fact that any element which becomes part of the artwork represents a personal code interpreted only by the artist himself. In addition, the symbols that the artist uses the mechanisms of painting and embodiment, represent a momentary exposure of the artist’s hidden emotions in this particular situation. The painting is not only considered a representation of the artist’s allegations but is also a bold core which depicts the features of situations born of subsequent events and critical paradoxes over time and through a dismal history. Man, depicted in Hindawi’s paintings, with his gloomy expressions, his naked body and the destruction that surrounds him, reminds us of the pain that worlds endure after suffering losses. The artist Giacometti confessed to his colleague, Jean Genet that he directs his art at the deceased. On the other hand, Sumer Al-Hindawi presents his experiences to the tortured people of the world. He can, however, with magnificent professionalism and unique capability, soar with his imagination changing ugly elements into aesthetic attributes. Imagine. How could this be?
Sumer Al-Hindawi’s artistic works are based on the logical awareness of predetermined goals. As an artist, he absolutely does not depend on coincidences, and since he combines painting with sculpture art, the mechanisms of his work require initial planning and require longer periods of time. Therefore, the possibilities of freeing and manipulating surfaces should be refined in order to be re-interpreted in a different perspective from actual reality. We observe in Hindawi’s work scared or awed people, a sparkling colorful luster, and pure scattered marks of contrasting colors. From the midst of a kind of an organized setup, we notice amphitheaters and architectural structures that remind us of Urok, Babel, and Nineveh in the early beginnings of their rich civilizations. In fact, Sumer, the artist, a descendant of Iraqi legacy, has connected to his Iraqi roots and indeed, has a special bond with them. This, however, is not a forced return to the past but is instead, a visionary starting point for a bright future illuminated with the colors of a rainbow.
In my opinion, the artist Sumer Al-Hindawi’s contribution aids in explaining the significance and usefulness of art by means of genuine and truthful expressions injected with the detailed attitudes of humans towards various events. Therefore, art is not a matter of pride or luxury. It is a formula to conceptualize the very positive side in optical scripts which enjoy the flexibility of being interpreted in several various ways.
(Art, τέχνη, Kunst, कला, seni, فن )
The languages of art, artistic text, and visual interaction are all different terminologies that lead us to the parallel approaches in languages and to the art of writing in particular. Through this diversity and variety of writing and its tools, we find that the plastic, musical and theatrical writings are the closest means of understanding and interaction among various cultures, provided that the original script is left intact. We also find that traditional writing tools from which effects that provide us with visual and vocal signs are formulated, all conform to cohesive standards. Thus, manipulating parts of a specific drawn symbol in an unusual way while realizing that it still conforms to the strict laws of formulation, will transform it into a talisman, or even an item of ridicule.
The process of translating a text which has been written according to the criteria of other cultures involves a process of re-drawing the symbol and its relative types in shape, means of understanding and interpretation. This, of course, is conditional to remaining committed to the original script, in order to achieve an acceptable balance thatwill undoubtedly affect the viewer. If this process is not consistent and accurate, it undermines the script, its symbols, and its impact. If we examine plastic writing, we find that it has a particular structure recognized among cultures yet at the same time, encompasses a wide range that allows the writer some degree of flexibility albeit within the originally expanded script frame.
Adding a letter to any part of the word art is considered a spelling error or it may mislead the reader initially, but, on the contrary adding a word such as Duchamp or Dali to the word Davinci may have a special impact.
In visual art, we find an expansive range of writing which produces an effect parallel to the way in which one is affected by traditional writing means. This open range can produce shapes and concepts with either similar or contrasting dimension.
Visual work is an expanded area of expression which varies from one writer to another, the same process that we see in sculpture, paint, architecture, music, and theater. The ingenuity of an author is embodied even if some sections of this expressed thought are eliminated in order to bring out the remaining parts. This is because the process is merely a registration of a rich image occupying the artist’s mind and vision ... And the question here is, where does this vision come from? Is it formulated by virtue of the study of effects? And is the effect as important as the affected? I think that there are various stages between the affected and the effect and by stripping down and contracting the effect, did we invent a new one, or did we simply manipulate what was already there to begin with?