Perhaps this contact also made him more aware than is
usually the case, of other cultures. The foreigners he met with as
a boy were humans like him, some were friendly, warm-hearted, but also
hard-working fellows, and so were, in their own way, most peasants in the
villages. People in many respects are similar and loveable, in their diversity,
their attachment to different socio-cultural backgrounds. Haddad Maurice
thinks of the people of the world, the common people, as brothers and sisters,
or at least he thinks that this is what they should and might be. And he
thinks of himself, above all, as a peasant, a man from the countryside,
with a love for life, a curiosity of the mind, you might say, probing and
creative and experimental. 'I have no style', he says. He resorts to the
aesthetic means which the work before him demands.
He has worked abroad, for a time, teaching and doing research
at universities, mainly in France where he concentrated on the chemical
analysis of colors, a knowledge that has helped him to develop great
skill in producing his own, natural colors when left, in recent years,
without imported ones as a consequence of the embargo.
But studying synthetically produced colors abroad also
demanded a big price. Exposed to - was it extensive heat, was it
laser lights? - while doing his research on the properties
of colors in Europe, he lost his eyesight, and only one eye has recently
been saved, due to an operation.
Recently, Haddad Maurice has returned to Europe again,
keeping memories of his bombed house, the fields and marshes and rivers
abounding with rusting bombs and unexploded ammunition. And while his love
for life binds him to his country and the memories of a native soil fertile
with antiquities link him with the past, he is saddened by the knowledge
that rusting bombs mean heavy concentration of copper oxide and iron oxide
in the wetlands, the brooks, canals, and rivers, with devasting effects
on the fish, and the people who catch and eat them. The poisoned water,
the poisined fish, the poisoned populace – this too his home for him, a
devastated home in the ‘No Fly Zone’, where, lately, wave upon wave of
Allied bombers attacked, by the hundreds, bringing more death and devastation,
as a prelude of what: peace?
Art is peaceful, and Haddad Maurice is a peaceful man.
I’m an artist, he says, an artist and a peasant. Politics is not for him,
he shies away from it, he does not want to talk about it. He cares for
beauty, for honesty, for mutual understanding, for a search that is centered
both on today and yesterday and 4000 years ago. “Inspired by
the history and legends of his homeland”, he “loves his freedom” as an
artist, relying on forms, colors, themes found in the imagination
and discovered as well in the “heritage of Iraq” (Mazen Asfour).
But now let us have a close look at his paintings.
A Brief Look at the Works Shown at the Catholic Academy,
Trier, in Oct. 2002
Encountering the work of Haddad Maurice for the first
time, I can not help noticing the diversity of his compositional approaches,
his media and materials. There are water color paintings that at first
sight seem almost conventional, but that bear witness to an awareness of
country life, sharp observation, an ability to catch moods, the atmosphere
for instance of a landscape awaiting a heavy rain fall, the peasant life
characterized by both energy and a strange tranquility and perserverance
that is almost lighthearted, in the case of the young farm worker depicted,
sombre and eternal in the case of his oxen.
The works showing Iraqi women, real beauties, one might
say, are close to folk art: bright, colorful, geometrical, and basically
well-balanced in their formal language that relies on curves, segments
of circles intercutting each other.
The works however that are most dear to me are mythological
both in their formal language and their historical reference. In the case
of these works, often wood instead of canvas is used as a surface. What
is taken, at first sight and mistakenly, for 'normal' oil paintings, is
very special in its reliance on natural substances native to his land that
the colors are made of. One, referred to as No.26, in his Trier exhibition
(Oct 2002), makes me more than aware of how Haddad Maurice recoups the
past echos of a distant memory. This work is resonant, a reflection of
an ancient world, a bygone culture, and its artefacts. With
apparent ease and great mastership, Haddad Maurice creates a montage of
law texts hewn into stone tablets, a stele presenting two half-invisible
faces of old, and a female figure of which only the body from the waist
upward is visible: a naked figure, with a youthful, oval face and delicate
arms that seems to carry a symbol on its head: the seven suns of Catholicism,
I guessed, whereas this is, to him, a green ornament of seven ‘eyes’, disk-like
eyes, grouped around an 8th, central disks: the center of the amulet that
is believed to keep ‘bad looks away’. They used it already, the artist
notes, ‘on the hands of the kings of Babylon’. ‘It comes from Sumeria’
– they were ‘the first people who used this tattoo’. But ‘the people today,
use it’ as well: ‘the farmers do’.