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Rahim al-Said: Transforming Songs Into Paintings

07 Feb 2016


Salam Zidan

Yalla – Baghdad

Rahim al-Said transforms Iraqi songs and sayings into ballpoint drawings. 


Al-Said was born in Baghdad in 1964. He graduated with first class honours from the the city’s College of Fine Arts. He carved out the early years of his career exhibiting in state-run events and organising exhibitions in public spaces around the city.



Al-Said has, in a long-term project, put his impression of 13 songs onto paper. He spoke to Yalla about his inspiration. “Since I was a child I was interested in painting, and after honing my talent through practice and studying techniques, I conceived and idea to transform songs of illustrious singers such as Yas Khidir, Kadhim Al-Sahir, Hussein Neama, Qahtan al-Attar, Fuad Salem and Sadoon Jaber, as well as Iraqi sayings, into ballpoint drawings. The paintings are completed after years of thinking, as completing a painting takes longer than a year.”           



He added, “This technique has created a great conversation between people, who talk about it in private and public meetings, as I am the first artist to sue this technique. I have transformed many songs into visual art.” 

He explained, “Specialists and the critics have praised my work, and now I can illustrate any valuable expressions or sayings because transforming them into drawings makes them touch people’s hearts.”



Regarding his unusual choice of medium, al-Said says, “Using ballpoint pens to draw represents my limitless ambition in the world of fine arts, and exhibits my special and unique technique. I don’t make mistakes and I can create a new colour by using different colour ballpoint pens. I can draw paintings up to 110 X 80 cm. ”



Al-Said is trying to reinvigorate the fine arts scene which has been suffering from a slump since 2003, and to that end has established a fine arts institute. He said, “We established the Hawajes ‘Qualm’ Institute for Culture and Arts alongside a large number of elite artists, with the objective of saving fine arts from neglect by official bodies. We have organised over 40 exhibitions throughout Iraq in two years in universities, schools, ministries, the United Nations, even al-Mutanabbi Street.”


Al-Said belongs to the school of surrealism, asking questions of reality. “Few Iraqis are surrealists because of its difficult and mysterious nature. Most Iraqi artists are characterised by belonging to the realism and naturalism schools. I am currently working on a painting that combines the ideas of the three schools - a very difficult job which only a small number of artists can do.”


Al-Said explains the meaning of three of his paintings


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