I aim for sculpture that is engineering as much as it is art pushing the boundaries to what is physically, mathematically, chemically and gravitationally possible. Ultimately, I look to carry this work and know-how back to my native Baghdad and contribute to the recovery and revival of Iraq’s artistic legacy. These are the first prototypes for ambitious large-scale architectural work.
Sculpture by Maysaloun Faraj acts a springboard into a language without words. Her pieces are delicate and lyrical - silent letters in a lifelong correspondence with the divine. They incite profound reflection on the endless possibilities of matter in relation to the universe, as well as embodying the artist’s unstoppable sincerity, which passes fervently through sinuous twists of bronze before settling more restfully in slender tablets of clay.
There is a ripe and startling physicality to the sculpture even though on the surface each is fragile, fragmented and often executing an impossible balancing act: Golden Bird (2008) features fragments of white earth-stone carefully arranged one upon the other and exquisitely tipped with gold as if a seal to a sacred scroll. I’jaz (2012) presents a thin column of bronze that weaves its way skywards, stretching almost to breaking point but never once toppling. In its endurance, the riddling structure resembles a calligraphic dance, rising in a swaying path towards the void in the heat of risk, ecstasy and triumph.
The innocence and magnificent naivety that ebbs from the sculpture comes directly from its continual aspiration towards simplicity. There is a feeling that the artist is constantly sifting and extracting any distraction to her work’s essence so that each line, each hue, is entirely a product of necessity. She compulsively puts her materials to the test, intensely working them in such a way that sees her master her own hand, erasing any obvious signs of human intervention and forging pieces that appear deliciously untouched, but arranged with great skill.
It is striking that both the fired earth-stone and the cooled bronze consistently manage to retain their soft suppleness while bearing force in their crisp lines as well as in the slow, strong bends of the material. Even though the shapes making up each sculpture tend to assume their own mysterious order, the unusual harmony of line and colour invariably points at a sense of wholeness, of plenitude. And the balance of elements, though at times in apparent defiance of gravity, is all the more marked for its successful amalgamation of apparently discordant parts. One particularly recurrent motif - the thin white crescent resting atop a block of clay - hints once again at the universal nature of Faraj’s approach, her referencing of works by a generation of Iraqi artists before her, including Jewad Selim, and much further back in time, to the symbols as well as techniques explored in the visual cultures of Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.
As a whole, the artist’s oeuvre reveals a vision that is luminous and progressive. Each sculpture offers a distinct sensation of oneness dissolving, transforming then redefining itself, first into clay, now most recently bronze, in an ongoing act of material purification. As a series, they tell wordless stories of how the brokenness of things is in fact the necessary beginning of a journey towards greatness, with former wounds evolving into sacred scars, testifying to a life fully lived, and within that - a verve, a glimpse of the divine. Kate Busby . Barcelona 2012