The Fabric of Memory

The ruling principle in the work of Fatima Barznge is memory. In her paintings and works on paper she revisits the places, objects and atmospheres of a birthplace, cultural world and childhood to which return is impossible. Barznge grew up in Aghjalar, a rural village in Iraqi Kurdistan completely destroyed in 1988 in the Anfal war campaign, soon after the family’s departure. She studied business administration in Baghdad and in 1997 fled for political reasons and settled in the Netherlands where she graduated cum laude from the Royal Academy of Art (The Hague) in 2005.

The works are grouped together in series, in a sustained tension ranging from abstracted figuration to wholly nonrepresentational works. Many have highly worked, shimmering surfaces, networks built up of hatchings, dashes, darts and barbs, or small glaze-like patches of colour. The tissue of painstakingly interlaced markings evokes in both texture and method the traditional weaving workshops she attended as a child. The calm, repetitive activity of making seems intimately related to the work of memory and the working-through of the past.

In the figurative works landscapes or things are faintly discernible. Ghostly objects – a ceramic pot, a traditional cabinet, a patterned mosque curtain – are blurrily cut out and suspended in the centre of the composition, removing them from their domestic context, like dream images floating in the mind. Details from landscapes scarred by industrial exploitation, drought or war are isolated through close cropping. The landscape of trauma appears most explicitly in a series of highly worked textile collages, where the incorporated cloth (Kurdish headscarves with traditional printed or woven patterns) alludes to the fraught political reality that erupted in the destruction represented. There are lyrical painterly excursions, as when a first visit back to Aghjalar prompted a series of elegiac landscapes, for which the source material is layered: photographs taken during that journey function as aides-mémoires superimposed on the altered post-war landscape, itself laid over the landscape of memory. In other series the cross-hatched webs are all-over non-figurative compositions aligned with minimalist and other modernist traditions. The texture may evoke cloth or the uninterrupted night sky, or dissolve into pure abstraction.

Since 2017 Barznge has been occupied with the study of the square, the central motif of traditional Islamic art, but also a touchstone of the twentieth-century avant-garde. These works on paper are simpler, airier and more transparent than the earlier, densely-worked panels, and are combined in wall-sized installations, once more evoking the memory-rich textile arts of quilting, weaving, embroidery. The critical undercurrent towards both religious tradition and Western cultural assumptions never becomes explicit. The call to abstraction persists, because it is a means of universalizing particular experience, providing an oblique approach to material that would otherwise be too painful or confrontational: irremediable loss, the guilt of the survival, and the duty to remember.

Heleen Schröder, July 2020

  • News


    * TekentuinWorkshop “A Picture of word #02″ at Drawing Centre Diepenheim, 24.06. 2023 www.drawingcentre.nl

    * Solo at gallery V/MSP, Brussels, Belgium 07. 09- 07.11. 2023

    * Solo at gallery SANAA, Utrecht, NL 28. 10 – 03. 12. 2023 www.galeriesanaa.nl

    On view:

    * Welat’s Garden at Kulturbauernhof Wanner 433, Zollbrück Switzerland. The Welat’s Garden event and group exhibition are part of the Switzerland-wide commemoration project Lausanne 2023. A collaboration between Maison du Futur, the Mesela association and the Historical Museum of Lausanne. The 100th anniversary of Treaty of Lausanne 1923- 2023

    * Kunstrai Amsterdam group with gallery Sanaa Utrecht, NL 03-07. 05. 2023

    * Artist-in-residence & Solo at ElenBaashuis/Verhalenhuis Belvedere, Rotterdam, NL, 23. 04- 03. 09. 2023  www.verhalenhuisrotterdam.nl

    * EXODUS, group at  Buitenplaats Doornburgh, NL, 24. 03- 24. 09. 2023 buitenplaatsdoornburgh.nl

    * EXODUS, permanent online group show at Bijbel museum, NL www.bijbelsmuseum.nl


    * ON GEOMETRY,  Solo at gallery Ursula Walter, Dresden, Germany 03. 02- 18. 03. 2023  www.galerieursulawalter.com

    ” پێکەوە بە تەنها” / “Together- Alone” at Artists Initiative in, 01 – 15. 10-  2022. Curated by Avan Sidq, assistant curator Nig Salam, organised by Daraga Zamoa. Sponsores: Autumn Cocrell & Meriwan Abdullah, Eva Agency, Dr.Jamal A. Rashed, Nalia co, arto and Concept art Hunar. Sulaymaniyah Kurdistan Iraq (group)

    * Melk – Water at gallery Frank Taal Rotterdam 23.07- 05.08- 2022. Curated by Danni van Amstel, organized by Herman Lamers, supported  by CBK Rotterdam, (group)

    * Settings at Pictura Dordrecht 11. 06 – 24. 07- 2022 Maria Ikonomopoulou, Kathrin Wolkowicz and Fatima Barznge: www.pictura.com

    * Van Oerbeest tot rokende croissant at Stedelijke museum Schiedam(group) 14. 05- 26. 06- 2022 www.stedelijkmuseumschiedam.nl

    * 2022 “Samaa SANAA” at gallery Sanaa, Utrecht, curated by Betina Abi Habib (group)

    * The Fabric of Memory at Modka Beiroet Zutphen 05- 02 – 22-02- 2022, solo exhibition www.modkabeiroet.com

    * Postponed due to coronavirus: Settings at Pictura Dordrecht 08. 01- 13. 02. 2022 Maria Ikonomopoulou, Kathrin Wolkowicz and Fatima Barznge: more information at www.pictura.

    * Interwoven Histories at Rozenstraat- a rose is a rose is a rose, Amsterdam, curated by Christel Vesters, with works by Mounira Al Solh, Fatima Barznge, Feministische Handwerk Partij, Antonio José Guzman & Iva Jankovic, Patricia Kaersenhout, Mila Lanfermeijer, Jennifer Tee, Vincent Vulsma, and Sheila Hicks. Organiser: Stichting PAR & H foundation. More information at www.touch- trace.nl 04. 09- 30. 10. 2021

    * The relation between ornament & abstract theoretical and practical Artists presentation & talk Cara and Fatima, 14. 10. 2021. Organized by college Fine Arts, Salahaddin University, Erbil, Kurdistan Iraq

    * Meet & Greet the square drawings, zoom meeting Anissa Foukalne and Fatima on 06- 03- 2021 at 11.00. Organized by Stedelijk Museum Schiedam NL www.stedelijkmuseumschiedam.nl/activiteit ontmoet-groet-de-vierkante-tekeningen-met-geometrische patronen

    * Van CoBra tot boorolie Stedelijk Museum Schiedam 18-02 until 22-03-2020 group exhibition Curated by Colin Huizing

    * ZamZam Galerie Sanaa Utrecht 28-08 until 26-09- 2019 solo exhibition

    * The Female Gaze Museum De Buitenplaats Eelde 11-05 until 10-06- 2019 group exhibitio

  • Contact

  • Info