In between darkness and resistance
An all-enveloping darkness in which light fights an uneven battle, trapped and devoured in black space – a plausible description of Madhat Kakei’s wash-drawings. Ranging from images where the surface is completely obliterated by black ink, to formations where the whiteness of the paper is intersected by black, irregular criss-cross lines forming apparitions with barred teeth and startled eyes. Faces and bodies seemingly lit up in a flash, only to fade into obscurity, images
appearing out of the darkness with sudden, distinct clarity. A style of drawing evoking a sense of the fragmentary, intensified by the stark graphic black and white contrast, a combination furthering the sense of impending threat inherent in much of the artist`s wash-drawing work.

Add to this the evasive spacial quality with figures moving through a world in which there seem to be no bearings, and the hallucinatory impression of a nightmare is complete. More than anything else perhaps,these dark images are experiences which, no matter how horrible, refuse to let go, memories which may only find relief through their expression.

Although this is an interpretation based on some knowledge of Madhat Kakei’s personal experiences of the atrocities of war, the drawings speak their own language, intense and forcefully expressed. Akin to Goya’s depictions of mutilation and the vile stench of death in both their literal and pictoral blackness; then, the atrocities commited by the French army, now: the horrific mass-murder of the Kurdish people. No matter where or when, war is but a machinery born out of hell.

But it would be wrong to say that these wash-drawings are only about destruction, for inherent in this dark series there is a passion, a resistance to destruction, a life-pulse that refuses to give up. The dramatic expression we find in these works is reminiscent of classical Spanish painting, a tradition which provided Madhat Kakei with an artistic abode. A school of art full of explosive sensuality and Kakei’s surfaces are, if anything, patently real: the tracks, carvings, marks, almost
graffiti-like. From the ruins of Pompeii to our modern-day public rooms – the graphic quality in his ink-wash drawings have in common a sense of the immediate in all their rebellious, optimistic force.

Niclas Östlind
Curator at the Liljevalchs Hall of Art.


Translation: Veronica Ralston