Born in Baghdad, Ayad Alkadhi’s work translates cultural and political issues of Iraq and the Middle East into art on canvas. Ayad grew up between Baghdad, London and Abu Dhabi. “Both my parents are doctors. My grandfather, Dr Jamil Said was a professor of literature (he was a member of the selecting committee for King Faisal’s International Prize for Literature).

Both he and my grandmother instilled in me a love for storytelling, poetry and calligraphy. Most of my childhood memories involve my grandparents. They had a profound influence on me.” His popular use of Arabic newspaper on mixed-media canvases, and love for traditional art infused with contemporary art is portrayed in bold imagery and calligraphy.

Though he mostly enjoys painting. “The themes of my work focus on the human condition under extreme circumstances, since that was my experience growing up in Iraq.”

Ayad said an open mind is integral to the work of an artist. Like any industry, Ayad believes the art world has bureaucratic and cooperate aspects. “I accept that it is an essential part of the art world.” He told Oasis magazine the role of the artist in Middle East, like the role of the artist anywhere, is to reflect the thoughts and feelings of the times. “Therefore, an artist has to be honest in his/ her projections.” As a seminal experience, he remembers it being the time he left Iraq and eventually moved to New York.

I Am Baghdad

I Am Baghdad

“During the US invasion of Iraq, my work served as an emotional documentation of specific events occurring at that time, such as the Abu Ghraib prison abuse and the Iraqi refuges situation in Syria. I used an abundance of calligraphy, which was, in my opinion, necessary to tell the stories of these events.”

Recently, he has explored various themes even though he admitted they are “mainly about the Middle East.” He said he finds himself more cautious of contemporary influences than he used to be in the past. “I was at the museum of Modern Art (MOMA) the other day. I was very guarded in how I analyzed the works and even how I admired it. As if I was protecting myself from these influences.”