ATHAR JABERIraqi - Dutch b. 1982
ATHAR JABERIraqi - Dutch b. 1982
Athar Jaber is one of the most visionary and talented artists working with marble today. Born from Iraqi parents, Jaber grew up between Rome, Florence, The Netherlands and Antwerp. The transience of his younger years and exposure to various cultures helped foster a sense of belonging that went well beyond the geographical borders of his youth, creating a desire in Jaber to outline a common human experience across cultures and time. This notion ultimately helped shape the framework for his artistic practice today.
In his work, Athar Jaber explores contrasting conditions between beauty and destruction, the past and the present, idealism and imperfection – the very essences of the human condition. He cites the impact of having grown up with images of the Gulf War as a significant influence on the early direction of his work. Themes such as suffering and violence inevitably found their way into his creations. However, growing up in Florence also had a great impact on Jaber’s artistic vision. Surrounded by great classical marble sculpture throughout the city, Jaber developed a deep appreciation and strong understanding of it and the quest for ideal beauty.
Reinterpreting this quest for ideal beauty, the artist utilizes various tools and techniques. After carefully selecting the marble or stone to work with, he then employs various treatments such as burning, dropping, dragging, acid, sandblasting and even shooting with a gun to re-enact or re-create the experience and erosion that happens to an object over time. Jaber expertly hand carves his sculptures over lengths of time, in some cases for several years, alternating between classical features and fragmented, scarred, and beaten surfaces, preferring the human touch of the chisel over technology to make his marks.
The contradictory nature of the works is both visual and emotional. The viewer is instantly aware of beautiful forms and the skilled handling of the marble, yet there is an inherent feeling of unease with the fragmented figures; one may easily find references to a Michelangelo entangled with those of the ruins of Palmyra in the same piece. And while violence may be one association in Jaber’s work, this is an element which has always been a part of our collective experience throughout time. Decay and destruction underlie the beauty and fragility of the forms, their presence a reminder of the ultimate universal myth – yin and yang, good versus evil – that one cannot exist without the other. In this way Athar Jaber’s sculptures present a most contemporary, yet timeless, rendition of the human condition.
Recent solo exhibitions include Where Pain Becomes Beauty (Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence, 2015) and Works (Galerie Lohrl, Monchengladbach, 2016), while group shows include The Curated Space (Mall Galleries, London, 2016), 100 Masterpieces of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art (Institute du Monde Arabe, Paris, 2017), Jerusalem Lives (The Palestinian Museum, Birzeit, 2017). A solo exhibition of the artist’s work Offerings, is on view at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, Cuba, November 9, 2018 – January 14, 2019.
He currently lives and works in Belgium and is Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.