Two towers loom large in Walid Siti’s artwork, one manmade – the 9th century Malwiya minaret of Samarra, encompassing both the hubris of political power and the genius of an unknown architect; and the mountains of his native Kurdistan, formed by nature but central to the myth and identity of the region’s residents.
The mountains overshadowed Siti’s childhood in Dohuk in the 1950s and 1960s and were often painful reminders of the personal impact of the political situation in Iraq. The physical presence of the minaret at Samarra was more enigmatic; he never visited it while growing up in Iraqi Kurdistan, instead seeing the monument from the bus to and from art school.
Siti found power in these two forms through their continual reworking in his practice; he continues to study them through hundreds of sketches, leading to a painting or a sculpture. Siti’s compositions force the viewer to focus on the building blocks of his towers, this being his practice, whether they are acrylic lines of paint or aluminium wires.
The cyclical nature of Siti’s practice brings the constant hope of renewal. No matter what landscape or context he finds himself in, for Siti, there is always metal, wood, clay or dust from which to build a tower or a mountain.
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