Ayyam Gallery is pleased to present Those Houses Behind the Army Canal, a solo exhibition featuring Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’s recent body of work. This series is the second chapter of Alfraji’s project Books of Passage,charting three generations of migration in his family. The first chapter, entitled The River That Was in the South (2019) was shown at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Ayyam Gallery in Dubai and the Cairo Biennale. This exhibition will take place at Ayyam Gallery -Alserkal Avenue from 28 Feb till the 1st of May 2023.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji explores what he describes as ‘the problem of existence’ through drawings, paintings,video animations, art books, graphic art, and installations. Alfraji’s distinct visual language addresses the vulnerability of human existence and speaks of loss, exile, fragmentation and displacement. The shadowy protagonist who often appears in Alfraji’s multimedia works represents a black void, a filter that allows him to explore the intricacies of life. By rendering his solitary character as a charcoal-coloured silhouette and minimising the formal properties of his compositions, Alfraji captures the expressed movements and subtle inflections of the body in psychologically laden environments.

Books of Passage consists of three chapters in which the artist explores how identity was formed in his grandfather’s, father’s and his own generation. As he explores existential questions about the world around him, Alfraji collects and arranges personal and collective memories, in an attempt to understand and dissect them using the tools he works with as an artist.

Alfraji believes that memory consists of several layers which may conflict with each other, or exist as fragments, or be interwoven with each other, and are generally also incomplete due to the emptiness that war, migration, and loss leave behind. A new layer of memory is created, for example, when someone builds a new life in a different place, but it can also be passed on through the language and culture of previous generations. In the three chapters of this project, Alfraji explores the intercultural influences, cultural identity and layered memory of his own family history and also, more generally, of people who have had to flee their country.

Alfraji visualizes the concerns and faces of this generation in screenprints of old portraits he found on the internet and elsewhere, the iconic images and logos there, and videos and drawings of what it looked like at the time, and how it looks today. He does not tell a linear story, instead presenting an accumulation of memories, imaginings and ideas. In one painting a timeless figure looks out over Baghdad, observing the city, unsure of what the future will bring. Perhaps he sees a history that has already been lived yet still persists as an undying fact of life for countless others in the same situation.