Sura Moayad is an artist and a student at the College of Fine Arts, University of Qadisiya. Moayad works with patchwork and sewing techniques which she learnt from her mother, thus deviating from the traditional and academic approaches taught at Iraqi art schools. Among her recent projects is a series of portraits and busts which distort and maim the human figure. Despite this, the artist finds healing qualities in patchwork, and describes her role as an artist as “repairing damaged thought”. Ruya speaks to Moayad about her work.
You said that your mother taught you how to sew. How did you start to incorporate patchwork into your practice as an artist?
All that my mother taught me was how to sew. I wanted to create an artwork using a craft that I had perfected, so that I could devote my attention to the conceptual aspects of the work. My work developed through daily trial-and-error. I wanted to reflect the reality that I saw around me. In a new series that I am developing (pictured below), I see the three-legged chair as Iraq: missing a limb and impossible to balance.
Your work takes the form of dolls and children’s toys, but despite this the figurines are disfigured and grim. Why is this contradiction so important to you?
I see these images everywhere: on walls, in people, in customs and traditions. There is some kind of distortion or mutilation in everything around me. I want to convey a real disfigurement in the simplest way possible because I believe we are all disfigured from childhood.
The doctor treats an injured limb but the artist can repair damaged thought.
Art colleges in Iraq take a traditional approach to teaching figurative painting and sculpture. What is your position on this?
Art colleges in Iraq do not give us the space to develop our ideas and generate new concepts. This means we cannot keep pace with the developments taking place in other countries. This is a huge mistake. If artists in Iraq were given the space to be more inventive, we would uncover many new artistic movements. Artistic innovation would no longer be the sole preserve of certain countries.
What are the challenges facing the new generation of artists in Iraq, women in particular?
As a female artist, I am engaged in challenging all harmful customs and traditions: the weak minds that see women as nothing more than a body wandering about, or the minds that fight against me so as not to expose their own truth. They are trying to shatter the mirror that confronts them.
What is the role of the artist, in your opinion?
The artist has a huge role to play in society and can change the ideas of an entire society. The doctor treats an injured limb but the artist can repair damaged thought.