Rafa Statement on Artist's Books (Dafatir )
Since my first steps, and after I moved away from academic and realistic styles toward abstract expressionism in 1968, I tried to search in three different cultural paths that formed the background of my studies of art in Baghdad (1956-1959), then Beijing (1959-1963), and then in Lisbon (1967-1969). Those paths were three civilizations – the Arabic – Islamic, the Chinese, and the Western - from which I sought to extract some of the features of my new experiments in painting and graphic work. My partiality towards the Eastern philosophy and explanation of life and being has been obvious. The notion of dualism's and successions was generally the prevailing characteristic of my artistic creations, which contained the black color and its white antithesis. This also was manifested in contrasting the earth and the sky, mass and emptiness, light and darkness—in other words, spirit and matter. In addition, my artistic creations contained numerous images and symbolic impressions from nature and the environment which I directly received from visible reality. Since that time, I have worked continuously to generate the work of art from an understanding of the other, from testing different materials in order to present appropriate influences. But I always have had an affection towards paper and water, perhaps because I am a graphic artist first and foremost, or maybe because my artistic heritage is of paper and water color, as in the works of Al-Wasiti and other original Arab painters.
From the art of these three civilizations I also tried to extract or maybe to deduce a common notion that combines and ensures the fundamental primacy of skill and perfection in artistic impression, and of high craftsmanship as an art in itself. So I surrendered to all of these notions and conditions,
I tried to be loyal to them as much as possible, and I tried to apply them in making my art works throughout the last forty years.
Translated by Liljana Elverskog and Nada Shabout