Hoshyar Rasheed (1971) was born into a family of activists, artists, critics, and art historians in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan. Characterized by his mixed media techniques and a cast of dreamlike creatures, Hoshyar’s work is a celebration of rich colour and intricate detail. Hoshyar, who attended the Rietveld Academy in the late 90s, draws his inspiration from Kurdish folk art. In the tradition of Kurdish poets, he has dedicated much of his work to keeping the culture alive in his own imagery. In the artist’s own words: “It is one of the greatest ways to exist: to be able to give something back.”
Hoshyar treats the viewer to vast expanses of primary color that stage scenes of great detail. The surfaces of deep blues and rich layers of red are foregrounded by their own distinct characteristics. Smudges of black paint, textural experiments and a rudimentary puzzle of pigments relate the abstract color block to its figurative elements. These are dreamlike gatherings of fantasy creatures and Gaudí-esque architecture: birds, a smiling portrait and mysterious creatures with human faces float around whimsical buildings. Elastic strings quite literally tie the varying pieces of the work together and to the artist’s personal history. As a child at school, he would hide secret messages or banned writings between his regular books, held together by this same symbolic string.
Fantasy figures emerge from negative space in Hoshyar’s meticulous work in pen, in these works Hoshyar’s transition from the abstract into the figurative is most evident. A pattern of waves and innumerable circles evolve into earthly entities, human figures and faces blend into trees and their roots to form bipedal and aquatic hybrids that swim across the composition. Fish symbolize freedom in Kurdish culture and proliferate in Hoshyar’s work as symbols of platonic love: “When I paint a fish, my canvas comes to life. Loved ones appear as fish in my work: fish are memories of my friends.”
The stylistic characteristics of Hoshyar’s paintings are translated onto the organic shapes of his ceramic work: a vase of many curves bears a craquelé that recalls his delicate pen sketches. The inclusion of real silver and gold in his collection of tiles – each one of one – highlights the preciousness of these detailed uniques and the richness of their select pigments. Viewers will recognise the mythical characters of Hoshyar’s work on canvas in his monochromatic sculptures in wood or bronze.