Ali Eyal: In the Head’s Dusk

علي عيّال: في غسق الرأس

December 1, 2022 – March 4, 2023
١ كانون الأوّل ٢٠٢٢ – ٤ آذار٢٠٢٣

Curator: Amin Alsaden
ألقيّم امين السادن

Exhibition opening: Thursday, December 1, 2022, 7PM–2AM
الافتتاح الرسمي في الساعة ٧ مساءاً يوم الخميس ١ كانون الأوّل ٢٠٢٢

Ali Eyal is known for works that merge the ordinary with the surreal. His artistic practice contemplates the elusive complexity, and at times nightmarish absurdity, of this world, in which our lives, stories and desires are inexorably entangled. Rooted in childhood memories, his polychromatic fabulations negotiate harrowing events that unfolded in his hometown of Baghdad, particularly following the devastating 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq. By underlining how the past informs the present, how joy can be born out of suffering, and how traumas of conflict haunt local and diasporic communities alike, Eyal addresses themes that resonate with a humanity confronting multiple existential crises today.

In his first solo exhibition in Canada, Eyal presents a constellation of new and existing works, including paintings, videos and sculptural installations, that shed light on how Iraq’s turmoil captures dynamics that overtly or surreptitiously shape our current global reality. On the twentieth anniversary of the invasion—one of the most flagrant examples of neo-colonialism in recent history—his work raises questions about the immense cost of the world’s voracious appetite for oil. The price includes an unspeakable toll in human lives, planetary environmental degradation, and dispossession, displacement and decimation of entire cultural traditions. Although based on personal experience, the artist’s work also elucidates how the occupation of Iraq points to ideological rivalries between capitalism and other worldviews, as well as imperialism’s endless wars, the repercussions of which go far beyond Southwest Asia (or the “Middle East”), often the casualty of incessant Western military adventures.

Through intense introspection, Eyal invokes the challenges of representing the unfathomable scale of the tragedies brought about by armed conflict, which obscure the more nuanced and tender aspects of the survivors’ lives. Poetry coexists with horror in his canvases, and an unsettling anxiety is evinced by the nonsensical logic, pervasive fragmentation and dense agglomerations found across his practice. The anatomical, an allegory for carnage, intermingles with the botanical, conjuring an alternative world of shadows, and the artist’s way of keeping difficult memories alive. Lodged deeply into the unconscious—in the head’s dusk, straddling that fertile zone between waking and sleep—his work is ultimately about perseverance, an insistence on bringing to public awareness narratives that have been concealed or suppressed. By giving agency to rebellious recollections, which refuse to be forgotten, Eyal deploys imagination as resistance.


Ali Eyal (1994–) was born in The Forest, Small Farm. After earning a diploma from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2015, he studied at the HWP/Home Workspace Independent Study Program at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2016–17. His work explores the complex relationships between personal history, transitory memories, politics and identity, using a variety of mediums, with a focus on painting, transformed through other artistic modalities, such as text, installations, photography and video. His work has been exhibited at MoMA PS1, New York; Documenta 15, Kassel; 58th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh; Beirut Art Center, Beirut; and Warehouse, Abu Dhabi. Eyal’s videos have been included in several exhibitions and festivals, including Rencontres Internationales, Paris; VITRINE x Kino Screenings, London; Sharjah Film Platform, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah; and Cairo Video Festival, Medrar, Cairo.


About SAW

Founded in Ottawa in 1973, SAW is a non-profit artist-run centre dedicated to the presentation of contemporary art. Today, with its strong focus on outreach and community development, SAW boasts an annual audience of over 30,000 people. The centre’s risk-taking exhibition program presents the work of many artists who are not often considered by other Canadian art institutions. An evolving space comprised of its exhibition galleries, the Nordic Lab, Club SAW and the SAW outdoor courtyard, the centre is an ideal venue for the presentation of performance, media art and new artistic practices. Located in Canada’s National Capital region, SAW actively participates in political discourse around cultural diversity, artists’ rights and freedom of expression. SAW acknowledges and upholds the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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