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Discourse of silence

The Mistlin Gallery in Modesto is showcasing the works of prominent Iraqi artist Saadi Al Kaabi and his show “Discourse of Silence” through the month of February.

Al Kaabi is a world-class artist and his paintings have been in museums and shows from Baghdad and New Delhi to Paris and New York.

“Mistlin Gallery is honored to have Saadi Al Kaabi exhibit his art,” said Talal Mouala, a Syrian art critic.. “His works are complex and provocative, portraying images that demonstrate determination, which has distinguished him in the Iraqi studio. He has held on to the values and principles of his own beliefs while suffering aggressions, sieges, plunder and oppression, all of which have threatened his human existence.”

Al Kaabi was born in 1937 in Najaf, Iraq. He showed an early aptitude and appreciation for art and began attending the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in the late 1950s, graduating with his degree from the Department of Painting in 1960. 

Through the 1960s, Al Kaabi explored and tested his artistic skills with various styles, techniques and mediums. By the 1970s, he had developed his own signature syle that blended Expressionism, Cubism, and elements rooted in the Iraqi culture and ancient history.

“Al Kaabi is able to create attention to character and cultural references of the Mesopotamian valley, using the memory of the smoldering people in their spiritual nudity, while also capturing their solitude,” Mouala said. “This is beautifully achieved with transparent colors he drives from the desert and the eternal imagination and loneliness of its visitors.”

Over the decades and through the strife in his country, Al Kaabi pushed his own creative boundaries. During the 2003 Iraq invasion, Al Kaabi, still living in Baghdad, turned to his art to express the pain and uncertainty felt by the nation.

“Usually a crisis makes you feel better about your presence in the world… when you feel more aware of your presence, when it burns your insides, you can produce,” Al Kaabi told writer Kaelen Wilson Goldie in “Iraqi Artist Reflects a Lost Generation in a Time of Chaos,” published in the Daily Star in 2005.

By 2010, Al Kaabi had left Iraq, first settling in Los Angeles and then Ceres, where he continues to create new works. His exhibit, Discourse in Silence, features some of his trademark styles.

“In my artwork, form and symbols intertwine with earth colors, creating the balance among intellectual, rationalistic and physical values within a central core, which is the human being,” states Al Kaabi of his body of work.

The exhibition will run through February with an artist reception planned for 7 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Mistlin Gallery. The Mistlin Gallery is located at 1015 J Street in Modesto. Hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For more information call (209) 529-3369 or visit online at