In a backyard of the Sonnenberg. We drink tea together in Ahmed Alsaadi’s studio. Everything seems natural, a Chemnitz artist gives me an insight into his work. He has lived here for seven years, speaks perfect German and has already had his first exhibitions in the city. Yet nothing is normal – because it is pandemic and afterwards my interview partner has to go back to the refugee center.
Ahmed Alsaadi was born in 1990 in Basra, in southern Iraq. More than 90 percent of Iraq’s oil is produced here, and in summer it averages 50 degrees Celsius. It is a city that used to be called the “Venice of the Orient” because of its many picturesque canals. But the invasion by U.S. forces and ongoing conflicts between various militias have made it one of the most dangerous regions in Iraq. Even in his childhood, Ahmed Alsaadi processed his experiences through art. “It was mainly my uncle who inspired me to paint. He was a painter and a great writer. He even won an award in Morocco in 2012 for his short stories,” reports Alsaadi, whose uncle now lives in Freiberg.
In his homeland, the artist ventured his first attempts with surrealistic drawings of people. After his flight, his portfolio expands, both in terms of content and technology. In the asylum seekers’ home he meets Julia O. – a life-shaping coincidence. She supports him as a social worker and artist. “By chance, she saw me painting and encouraged me to continue. One day she brought me paints and brushes. She was a great help – on all levels!”
Now the thoughts are materialized through drawings, acrylic paintings, reliefs, objects and combination of all techniques. “Almost all my paintings are connected with my homeland, flight or war. My paintings are a cry for freedom. They become the voice of the unheard.” The motifs of the works develop in the process of creation – without prior planning. Only after their completion does the artist become completely aware of the memory he has transferred. Abstract forms and figures change in representation, only the surrealist component forms a constant.
As the foundation of his work, the artist emphasizes his new home: “Chemnitz was perfect to awaken my art. In the city I quickly met friends and other artists. In a city like Berlin with a huge competition, I certainly could not have succeeded so quickly.” Several exhibitions follow in the city and much encouragement, from which Alsaadi and his works grow.
But then comes the pandemic, planned events are cancelled and the artist has to reschedule. Alsaadi increasingly begins to draw at home, even starts working on a sculpture. 2020 frustrates him as much as many of us, but the year still holds a positive message: “When Chemnitz won the title of European Capital of Culture 2025, I was surprised. I thought that the events in 2018 had negatively affected the city’s image. Now I am proud with many other artists to have contributed a small part to this title. After seven years, I can say: this is my city too!”