Rafa Nasiri Cosmic Landscape Painter

Saadon Fadhil,2013

Viewing the works of Rafa Nasiri recently displayed (Al-Riwaq Gallery, Baghdad 1979), I recalled the late American Expressionist painter Hans Hoffman who once said: "The origin of creation is the reflection of nature on the conscious or subconscious mind."

The genuine contemporary artist, therefore, has no alternative but to maintain a constant dialogue with the infinite physical manifestations of nature and the endless existing man-made forms accumulated throughout mankind's long history. The contemporary artist's main burden is not confined to the old traditional representation of recognizable visual objects, but the evolvement  of an artistic vision through which such objects are intellectually explored and passionately perceived and ultimately projected on the canvas.

However this intellectual approach does not imply that the artist's work is totally divorced from the tangible reality since the artist, unlike other individuals, has treasured throughout his life a store of impressions and experiences which continue lingering at the back of his mind. Being an individual endowed with a unique insight and a heightened sense of observing visual objects, the artist's creative power taken over the act of breaking-up, transforming or re-arranging these objects through colours and forms.

These introductory remarks are essential when reviewing Rafa Nasiri's work who recently exhibited some of his paintings with fellow artists such as Dia Azzawi, Saleh Jumai'i and others at the Museum of Modern Art (Baghdad 1977).

One can easily recognize that Nasiri's work constitutes an obvious extension of his last April exhibition which exclusively dealt with one aspect of nature – that of the horizon and space. The artist's treatment of this motif, as stated earlier, is not concerned with the problem of representing nature, but with the creative process of handling this motif.

The canvas limits for the painter, as a critic once remarked is turned into "an area in which to act rather than a space in which to reproduce, analyze or express an object." 

For the passing viewer which may cast a casual glance at the seemingly non figurative work of Nasiri is judged out of hand as purely abstract paintings. But for the sensitive and visually trained eye, they actually evoke a sense of spatial or cosmic landscapes, not as we normally experience them but as the artist aesthetically sensed them and have them turned through a combination of colours, forms and imaginative power into compositions which appear unrelated to nature.

So even at his present advanced stage of artistic development, Nasiri still retains that subtle, though limited connections, with what I may term as natural visions-particularly those of cosmic atmosphere.

In handling his motif, which is an exclusive one, natural visions are stripped to the bones and reduced to rich colourful circular moon-like forms which though abstractly treated remains physically inspired by nature. 

Such circular forms, coupled with rich geometrical stretches, are sentimentally bound to evoke the awesome feeling of hovering objects over man’s world and visually lending themselves to metaphysical religious or any other interpretations coloured up by one’s imaginative power .

Technically one could see that Rafa Nasiri is not connected with the problem of dealing with the structure of natural landscape with depth but with the process of spatially handling only one aspect of nature-that of the horizon where cosmic scenes are dissolved in the play of vibrating and transparent colours on his canvas. Through these cosmic landscapes, consciously contemplated, explored and projected, Nasiri acts to enrich our physical environment with additional visual language and lend us a fresh sight to appreciate certain aspects of natural beauty, which daily unfolds itself before our own eyes but only to fade away unnoticed.
Technically Rafa Nasiri continues to resort, although under tighter control and economy, to the use of Arabic calligraphy as an element of decorative or more precisely as aesthetic value which was a distinctive feature of all his past artistic technical developments.
Nasiri’s present work, as I have already remarked, is not only the extension of his recent techniques but rather the ultimate stage that has been steadily and consciously evolving itself since his third one-man exhibition of 1969. It was that exhibition which marked the artist taking a sharp turn towards abstraction, and presented us, unlike his previous works, with graphic compositions formally divorced from the tangible objective reality, which makes one predicts that following his present "Variations on a Horizon" motif, the artist is on the verge of entering an artistic stage where colour expressionist qualities will be his major means of artistic communication.
 Saadon Fadhil
 Baghdad -1980