Substance and space

Amir Khatib had gone a long way in the world. He comes from the Tigris and Euphrates valley, from the cradle of our civilization but he chosen to live in Finland, the extreme north of Europe, which is considered the laboratory of the future.
It is manifest on the surface of his works the trace of a movement still in action, I don't know if personal or universal. This movement rise from inside and it will never die.
Amir was born in Iraq, where he started his artistic career in the theatrical world. Actor and director, Amir won prizes as best young director in the years 1982 and 1985. Then he went to Iran, Pakistan and Finland where he became a professional artist since the nineties.
Here, in Finland, he is a radio journalist and a correspondent, too.
The theatrical experience marked his way to see the world. He conceives the space in a three-dimensional way where the depth is a value, it is a container of a sense, it is a memory, it is a thought.
This is more manifest from when he gave up the figurative painting in the 1999 for another form of artistic communication. The ”topos” of the Amir's three-dimensional works are things leaving a trace that influence the surrounding space. We talk often about of the 'fourth dimension' that is the space-time. What does it mean?
In the technical way it is a representation or a description of the phenomenon that give prominence to the time side to the space to calculate not only the Euclid's three dimensions but the duration, too.
It symbolizes the immensity of the space that, in a fixed moment, it throws towards the infinite in all the directions.
This 'forth dimension' is a key factor of our existence in the world, here and now. For
Amir the space-time is in a thing: ”I think that by filling the space you need an art object, so the object work as a use of the space. Other ways you cannot create the condition of the art or you cannot influence the space by making painting or something you put on the wall”.
In his works (Trinity of Waiting, Trinity of Happiness, Trinity of Life and others) he employs often boxes. The boxes are in the collective memory since our childhood: the boxes are gifts, are container of toys, are the little theaters made at home, are the bases of the carillons, are the places where we preserve our souvenirs and the family objects. The boxes are closed but inside there is a personal and a sentimental world. The person will take off the lid of the boxes will know that world.
Amir creates an expectation in these three-dimensional works by opening holes.
”You need this three dimensions work that is why I make holes in my art works, I think that holes create distance of time to the viewers and I have a space between the holes I create and the wall I put the art object on”.
The hole is a distinguishing mark, it obliges to stop us on a surface, otherwise our look slide in an inattentive way. On the contrary, the holes draw and absorb us. We ask what is inside and begin a subtle wait.
This is why also the biodimensional works contain some signs, casual objects or archetypes where they stumble our attention.
Formerly, the argentinian-italian artist Lucio Fontana had by intuition the semantic potentialities of the cut in the painting; Fontana wanted give to a biodimensional support (the painting) the dimension that had never not, the depth, and to cross inside a cosmic energy.
In the case of Amir Khatib it is a question of a symbolic deed more narrative. The cut creates always a wait for that it is hidden.
”It is exactly from my childhood which is sucked, it is my memory that is pulled inside these black holes or it is unknown hole that is sucking my things”.
It contributes to the symbolic value ”my technique to create this time, is pulling the canvas from inside the frame of the hole, so you see a movement of absorbing (sucking) the colors, items or anything I work on the canvas. I make a hole on a block of wood, and put a thick wide frame around it, then I put the canvas around the frame and pull the canvas inside the hole and work on it”.
The artist self-portrait remember us ”Il martirio di San Matteo” by Caravaggio, that you can see in Rome, in the San Luigi dei Francesi church. In the Caravaggio's picture there is the martyrdom of the Saint in a whirl of gestures and persons. In the background you can identify the face of Caravaggio, that is the witness and the scene.
The same for Amir witness of his times: he watches us from the inside of the casket where he invites us to watch in.
As Caravaggio, Amir, with his glance, sucks and asks us: you too, are watching what I am watching?

The memory and the traces

Here is the Amir's artistic solution. ”The research of space and time has some roots in me. I reach some point that this not what I wanted. I wrote an article on the year 1998 about the Third Culture, which in brief, I am an Iraqi person living in Finland, so I have two cultures, or characteristics of two cultures, but I'm doing 'producing' a third culture. My research start with this point, so the space that I am filling is not the empty one, but it is a third one that appears as different, and has own characteristics”.
In the Amir's surfaces you can see traces of primordial echo. The same for the painters that Amir considers his masters (Arshal Gorky, Jackson Pollock), you can find atavist traces.
For Amir Khatib ”Iraq is my first culture. It is in my work, and my art objects are made in an Iraqi way. From the colors to the symbols, to the deep and old spirit that comes the surface. I am like the old Arab astrology, searching in the space about my own stars, making them and create them to show me the way that I'm walking in. The colors that I use for my works are indicating my childhood and my first belong, for instance gold on the work of Trinity of Happiness belong to the city where I was born, Najaf”.
In the Amir's triptychs the number '3' is used as a symbolic element, a part of this primitiveness that from Egyptians to the Greeks is arrived then to the Christianity.
Sometimes his images seem to me like a picture of the planet earth took from a satellite. ”So, I go sometime far to give many possibilities to the viewers to let see what they want to see”.
Irregular and tormented surfaces, where there is a reflex of a part of us. Surfaces full of signs like the drum of a Lappish shaman or like the weapons of a warrior.
The Trinity of unsettlement is an artwork of a nomad that he lost his memory and he is looking for symbols of his identity.
The lost (and found) memory ha s a link with the technological modernity of Finland, where the new media are very popular and important.
In this high-tech context, Amir arrives with his archaic and refined language, based on the crafts-man ship, based on the 'fiber' (tale) of the artist.
Iraq is the cradle of the western civilization and you can see in the Amir works that a thousand-year-old history wants to emerge. Thanks to this sensitiveness, the artist has found in 1987, in Turku, the EU-MAN, association with the aim to help and support communication between migrant artists in the EU region.
Now, EU-MAN is making a map of these artists living in Finland.
”I scream as if there is not other voices in this world but mine, nor there is any other deaths but my own”.
EU-MAN was in ten international exhibitions in six European countries and EU-MAN has a magazine titled Universal colors”.
The social engagement of Amir Khatib is an other sign of his way in the world. In the country of the technological future, a man knocks on our doors and brings us a message of humanity, whit his works, from the ancient and proud Mesopotamia.

By Stella Bottai /06.2004/

Catching the memory... An attempt

By Ali Najjar

Amir Khatib implements his artworks by a clear meaning; his artworks are a mixture of an unforgettable memory, a gaining of knowledge and a mixture of variable context.
To some odd extant he lived this mixture in depth, towards understanding, and then he tried to survive, sometimes in parallel line and some other times by integrating himself in fervouring its variable details, we can possibly assume saying: he is the symbol an exiled person.

Like people of his generation, he went around many Asian and European countries, carrying some of these knowledge and its environmental influences, and out of these all, his works came to existence, although they are not far from his memory of his childhood. The first childhood memory in its epical dreams and its environmental context.

read the rest

Ali Najjar Sweden, /23.10.2003/

A Sociology Personified

By the Hand

Through the vacuous tares and holes, past the glitter
of gold and feather, colour, texture and grain we are
drawn deep within the realms of another humans beings
most private, and inner sanctum ``absorbed´´ but
still, and without restriction or bonds, we are free
to roam, to wonder these endless, imaginary corridors
and rooms that are both open, and on plane view to the
fullest scrutiny. To open the many draws, cupboards
and closets and to either freely address or quietly
reflect upon the many parts that hold similarities in
relation to that of our own unique psyches, and
awareness about our selves or those more ' 'not' so
perfect flaws' that we are so reluctant to admit even
to our selves, those places in us where, and by choice
we so refuse to go.

'...exile is an ever-lasting search

for an identity'.

An intriguing question I felt when I read it. One that
Amir Khatib, the father and creator of these works had
put forward in his invitation flyer when he first
presented his 'The Three Trinities' exhibition at his
base the

'Galleria EU-MAN' in Helsinki,

Finland (October 18th 2002:) A question that, and
upon viewing his works, appears the stable point in
what Khatib was addressing both as an explanation as
well as a thought provoking invitation to be mulled

But that the term 'exile' itself orchestrates an array
of varying

Definitions both as what we, the individual person,
perceives whether it be politically motivated or
socially, as a whole or singularly. What perhaps
stands out, and is most striking about the three
bodies of trinity.

`Happiness´, `Unsettlement´, and `Waiting´, as well as
with the two complementary independent forms of,
`Absorbsion´ and `The Last Version´= (a singular piece
at this stage) is that they set the wheels of the mind
in motion

as the exuberance of Khatib's beliefs and idealisms,
wishes and desires. Dreams and hopes perceptions and
character are clear in evidence as they flow freely
trough the material that is carefully needed through
his work (via) his hands. As though his use of colour
form, symbolism and shape, distortion, bend and curve
are nothing more trimming, decoration, a formality for
a Presentation for the viewer but that the passion is
what consumes even that of the least discernable eye
upon one entering the room as almost immediately one
is confronted with a dilemma of at which group
'exactly' should one start? And as there appears to be
no discernible beginning 'nor' end as though straight
away one has, without realising, been enveloped by
both the artist and his world.

___ Jer Halpin____


One visitor, an art enthusiast, said she saw Matisse reincarnated as she gazed at Amir Khatib's works hanged on the opposite wall to the door as she entered. True, the bold, free flowing and inventive use of colors to from patterns, which marked the works of Khatib in this exhibition could easily lead some people to think that those were of works of one of the grand masters. Some thought that his work resembled the colors used in Middle Eastern decorations. The reds and the yellow, blue and white against a black background just made them a spectacle to see.

Joe Nambiza Tungaraza
Universal Colors 3/99


The Iraqi theater world has put its colors on Khatibs life- that's why his paintings shine in strong colors.
"Colors affect your thoughts, and art gives color to life. By colors you can tell a lot of different things"

Helsingin Sanomat 7.8.98


Expressive orient

Recently Amir Khatib holding an exhibition in the Juseluksentalo gallery, The exhibition consist of 17 works, they are divide between acrylic and oil colors. Something there is in them, though the colors are tuned with white and the composition needs more working. The strong symbolic and the depiction of Arabic life seems experienced by the artist himself.

Seppo Hänninen
Turun Sanomat 11.6.1992


There is something special about art that has its roots in the arabic culture - on the one hand the impressions are mixed with our mixed (generalizing) feelings about the arab world, on the other, the concept itself of the picture seems to be another. In our eyes, the two-dimensionality seems very strong - the surface of the painting seems flat, more ornamental than creating illusion even where the pictural motive is representing or narrative. The impression has, at least for me, always a touch of naivism. Something that touches the question about how the eye, like the ear (how falsh music from another part of the world can sound...) is programmated to prevailing conventions....

Amir Khatib came from Iraq. What would be more natural than finding pictures where you feel the heavy, nightmarish breathing of the disasters of the war. But only the breath, no horror pictures are thrown into our faces. The dramatic, on the verge of, but not falling into, the pathetic hanging of the paintings raises the question wether the arabic language recognizes the same nuances of the world 'hang' as it has in the Swedish language.

About half of the paintings seem inspired by old european modernists: the cubists, Klee, de Chirico. I don't know wether these sources of inspiration are old friends or new acquaintences for the artist. However, the paintings are interesting: colour, form and surface interact in a way that leaves many roads and questions open.

Åbo Underrättelser 6.6.1992
Bianca Gräsbeck