Hanaa Malallah

Iraq 1958

Installation, Drawing


Hanaa Malallah
Hanaa Malallah
June 3, 2016
Behind the pseudonym of Lor Dethal lies Nemanja Torlak, a writer for Widewalls intrigued and moved by diversity in art and in the lives of those who create it. It is often the unexpected that come forth and surprise us, and art is a world that allows it and makes it possible. David beats the Goliath daily, and writing about it is a pleasure.

Those that have experienced war know that it’s hard to explain its mental and physical effects, and it’s far from what one might witness second-hand. You may hear of disturbances going on somewhere across the globe, but it’s another thing seeing the firm structures evaporate in an instant. Bringing this reality closer to the viewers stripped of the tied geographical and political interests, Hanaa Malallah creates art that draws from a long history of the horror of war. Using the materials forced upon her by such a ruthless environment, Malallah’s works incorporated the ruined objects left behind on the war path, instilling the results of war efforts into her work and filling it with brimming energy that is hard to leave the “still waters” of any mind undisturbed.

iraqi museum destruction gallery institute baghdad work artist london arts university contact exhibition
Hanaa Malallah – My Night 16-17.01.1991, 2012-2013

Something out of Nothing

Born in Iraq in 1958, Hanaa Malallah moved to Baghdad with her family when she was five years old. With her talent towards the artistic expression developing when she was young, she was one of the few students selected for admission to the Baghdad University of Fine Arts. Malallah was unfortunate enough to find herself amid the turmoil of war that encompassed her years in college and the period after it, and it would turn out to shape her creative ways, forming her artistic practice around the reality of war.

Deciding to stay in Iraq with a number of her colleagues, Malallah’s life and her artistic output were greatly affected by the Iran-Iraq war (1980 – 1988) and The Gulf war (1990 – 1991). More than simply the subject of her works, the state of war physically influencing art: with the travel restrictions in place, economic hardships and social instability, art materials were sparse and hard to come by. In order to compensate, many artists from the region appropriated found items into their work; anything from torn cloth, burned paper and barbed wire to splintered wood and bullets found their way onto the canvas. Learning the horrors of war first hand and just how fast even the most solid of objects can be turned to nothing, Malallah, much like other artists of the “80s generation,” was reversing the process using her art, making something out of nothing.

Shaping her creative ways, Malallah formed her artistic practice around the reality of war

iraqi museum destruction gallery institute baghdad work artist london arts university contact exhibition
Hanaa Malallah – Arabesque III, 2013-2016

War-Related Art of Hanaa Malallah

What came out of mixture of Malallah’s artistic brilliance and the desolation of war was the “Ruins Technique” that she spearheaded during the 1970s. Formed around the materials that come as a product of war not only for their artistic value, but out of sheer necessity of that time, the technique helped her and her fellow artists bridge the gruesome period and carry their artistic identities through. Its success manifested in her first exhibition in 1991 and it was followed by years of great critical acclaim for Malallah, yet she hasn’t seen the last of her struggles. Forced to leave the country of Iraq, she became a citizen of London, ironically becoming a refugee in a country at least partially responsible for the forming of environment that had her leave her home. It also welcomed her when she was exiled, nurturing and building upon her war inspired art and embracing her history, allowing her to explore the space between existing and vanishing through her art.

The Ruin Technique helped Hanaa Malallah bridge the gruesome period and maintain her artistic identity

iraqi museum destruction gallery institute
Hanaa Malallah – Abstract, Figurative, 2011

Vastness of the World

Breaking the chains of enclosure forced upon her by the restrictions of war, Malallah has been exhibiting widely across Europe, the United States and the Middle East, reaching the depth of emotion in many viewers. Exploring the spiritual and philosophical part of being and not being, figuration and abstraction, Hanaa Malallah keeps etching her history into each of her works, showing the power and presence of ruin in the disfigured materials. With each of her pieces carrying across an abundance of energy, a visual and emotional involvement is unavoidable when looking at Malallah’s output.

Featured image: Hanaa Malallah – portrait
All images courtesy of the artist

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016 Biohazard DOLPH projects, LondonSolo
2015 Abu Dhabi Art Fair Abu DhabiGroup
2015 Art15 LondonGroup
2014 Works on Paper The Park Gallery, LondonSolo
2014 Art14 LondonGroup
2014 Reflections of War Flowers, LondonGroup
2014 A Tribute to Rafa Nasiri Nabha Gallery, AmmanGroup
2013 Hanaa Malallah The Park Gallery, LondonSolo
2013 Abu Dhabi Art Fair Abu DhabiGroup
2013 Scope Basel Art Fair BaselGroup
2013 Untitled Meem Gallery, DubaiGroup
2013 Untitled Contemporary Art Platform, KuwaitGroup
2013 Ten Year After: Reflections on the Invasion of Iraq, Project and exhibition Chelsea College of Arts & Design London University, LondonGroup
2012 Hanaa Malallah Inception Gallery, ParisSolo
2012 Abu Dhabi Art Fair Abu DhabiGroup
2012 Iraq: How, Where, for Whom? with Kennardphillips Qattan Foundation, The Mosaic Rooms, LondonGroup
2011 Untitled Swiss Re (Gherkin), LondonGroup
2011 Untitled Barjeel Art Foundation, SharjahGroup
2011 Art in Iraq Today (Conclusion Show) Meem Gallery, DubaiGroup
2011 Art in Iraq Today Beirut Exhibition Centre, BeirutGroup
2010 Dubai Art Fair DubaiGroup
2010 Art in Iraq Today Meem Gallery, DubaiGroup
2010 Beyond The War LTMH Gallery, New YorkGroup
2009 Vivid Ruins The Mosaic Rooms, Qattan Foundation, LondonSolo
2009 The Recessionists Somerset, EnglandGroup
2009 Modernism and Iraq Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University in the City of New YorkGroup
2008 Iraqi Artist in Exile Station Museum, USAGroup
2008 Iraq’s Past Speaks to the Present British MuseumGroup
2007 Sophisticated Ways: Distruction of an Ancient City Ayagallery, LondonGroup
2007 Green Zone Red Zone Gemak Den Haag, HollandGroup
2006 Hanaa Malallah Albareh Art Gallery, BahrainSolo
2005 Hanaa Malallah Anda Gallery, AmmanSolo
2005 Contemporary Iraqi Book Art UAS, Texas CollegeGroup
2005 Contemporary Iraqi Exhibition ParisGroup
2005 Iraqi Exhibition East and West Foundation, HollandGroup
2004 Celebrating the Creativity of the Collaboration Between Iraqi Art and Literature FrankfurtGroup
2004 Homage to Shakir Hassan Orfly Art Gallery, AmmanGroup
2003 Miniatures of Iraqi Art Dijlah Gallery, BaghdadGroup
2003 The Hundredth Hiwar Gallery, BaghdadGroup
2003 Before. After. Now Deluxe Gallery, Hoxton Square, LondonGroup
2003 Women Artists from the Islamic Wold Spain, UNESCO ParisGroup
2003 Tawashujat: Between Poet and Artists The Jordan National Gallery of FineArts, AmmanGroup
2003 Expressions of Hope: Iraqi Art Ayagallery, LondonGroup
2002 Hanaa Malallah Anda Gallery, AmmanSolo
2002 Contemporary Iraqi Art in ChinaGroup
2002 Baghdad International Festival for Contemporary Art BaghdadGroup
2002 Conference of Creative Arab Women TunisiaGroup
2000 Strokes of Genius: Contemporary Iraqi Art Brunei Gallery, LondonGroup
2000 Contemporary Iraqi Art Institute du Monde Arabe, ParisGroup
2000 Significance of Experimentation Baghdad Gallery, BaghdadGroup
2000 Co-Exhibition, Ghassan Ghaeb and Kareem Risan Ather Gallary, BaghdadGroup
1999 Drawing Athar Gallery, BaghdadSolo
1998 Schedules and Signals Athar Gallery, BaghdadSolo
1996 Icons of Environment Hiwar Art Gallery, BaghdadSolo
1995 Hanaa Malallah Abaad Gallery, AmmanSolo
1994 Pursuing the Trace Atelier Nadhar, BaghdadSolo
1993 Baghdad: Geography People Symbols Centre for Arts, BaghdadSolo
1991 Museum Visits Documents Centre for Arts, BaghdadSolo