Yousif Naser


Portrait de Yousif Naser © Salah Al Hamdani









Pluie noire/ Black Rain



Personal statement



I was born in 1952 in El Amara where I studied and graduated from the Art Academy in 1975 I left Iraq in 1979 to escape the Baath regime and lived in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus. I’ve been living and working in London since 1990. After leaving Iraq I continued to study Art on different levels e.g participating in various workshops such as the International Graphics workshop in Germany, studying Art at university (Polytechnic-London) and completing MA in Art.

Since my first personal exhibition in Baghdad in 1977, I have had many exhibitions of my own and taken part in group exhibition all over the world- America, Japan and the Middle East.





I am a member of various cultural associations and foundations and helped establish the association of Iraqi Artists in the U.K and established the ARK Art Space in 1997 in London in which I currently work. This space was named after Noah’s Ark. Last year I organized an exhibition The Black Rain which was a display of both human suffering and torridness in war. The exhibition dealt mainly with the death of Iraqi citizens which has not stopped for the last thirty five years. Even though I have been drawing about death all my life this latest war in Iraq has made me take a completely different direction on the subject. I started the Black Rain project before the war actually broke out when the initial preparation were still taking place. I had thought that the Iraqi’s spirit was dead  due to years of injustice and oppression which words cannot describe and that could only be brought back to life by the great flooding with which the ancient Iraqis recorded beginning of life  and humankind. This flooding is the rain that washes the lend from its pains and turns a new page in history .In turn, this rain is the war itself and as I had personally witnessed the horridness of war for many years I decided to name this project ‘The Black Rain’ which is the rain, but at the same time very different from it. One thing for sure, it is under the wings of this rain that I draw till this very day. This project includes huge paintings which can measure as much as five metres wide and three metres long as well as small paintings and other things made from different materials ; for example natural materials from the environment. Also, I have exhibited some of these works all over Great Britain as well as abroad for example, Damascus Syria. As there is so much more suffering in the world, I have a long way yet to go.





This long road awaiting me is a project called ‘The distant blue ‘on when i came to live in l to live in London in 1990. I’ve included in this project a number of paintings and drawings in different materials which still go back every now and again. These works are joyful paintings, but actually neglect the opposite. It does not take long to touch and feel the grief and sorrow that i tried to escape from. When I come to Britain i felt very far away and had to reconcile with my loss to get used to living somewhere new and getting used to the idea of not going back. At that time the sea and my relationship with it in Cyprus was an amusement that brought a humane dimension to my days. Also as i naturally love under and spent the first years of my life swimming in AL KAHLAA and drinking from it walking on its bank as a child, boy, teenager and man. The river was an important part of our lives. I drew my loss with the blue of the water, its waves, its spray, its, its fish, its animals and the reflections of lights on its shiny surface.





At first I didn’t remember things then I would draw them or rather my hand would run with lines and colours gradually helping me regain my memories. It was an amazing exercise joining pain and enjoyment together and the result would be delightful pain, I imagined that I would be capable of drawing cold shivers I used to get first things from the morning when I would put my foot into the water on my way to school.

I’m currently working on a new experiment alongside my ongoing project (The black Rain) the twins with poetry and art witch the help of an English poet who has written poems about the war, I’m attempting to present something new untraditional by joining poem to the creation of the painting by using words, times of the poems.

It is something new that gives both painting and poem the required range and mixes the two not just visually but physically and energetically. The project relies on other artistic means other than painting materials and words to write it need as painter that understands poetry and a poet that understands the meaning of drawing and who is not just satisfied with writing a script.

It’s like producing something which is neither painting or poem but both which can only be fully appreciated if experienced earlier experiment during war can be seen from different angles and the war in Iraq being the main influence in this case.

M y work on war has been compared to the ambulance that travels between the lines of war to help between the lines of war to help the victims, casualties even though I’m not in direct danger myself I’m more preoccupied with the victims and then pain and with the ruin and fear that war has caused them. I’m not concerned with heroes, victories but innocent whose lives have been taken away from them, I don’t believe in banners and chants as I believe they symbolized past and future death and blindness.

My painting has no stand other than a humane one as I’m not on one side against the other within the painting’s boundaries.

Holding onto life as all victims are equal in pain and if the painting أخفقت convey this then it is unsuccessful.

I don’t have a message to give non do I have advice to give. I’m not more intelligent or wiser then the next person he who helps the injured is not preoccupied with who caused the war or who is going to end it and only sees the pain of the body in front of him. I’m attempting to portray the bitterness and fear; uncover the pain and remind people how beautiful life is this may seem idealistic and even like a lost cause إنهزاميا  I know that this is a difficult task to complete  both spiritually and artistically.





I’ve written articles on art for many Arabic newspapers, especially Al Hayat newspaper, I wouldn’t describe myself as an arts critic and wouldn’t describe the articles I’ve written as pieces of criticism to be a critic is a very  demanding task and requires high qualification and extensive knowledge which I do not possess.

The articles I wrote were journalistic reviews  on the edge/ border of criticism, even though some readers would like to describe these as pieces of criticism, I have also written reviews for different art exhibitions and artists I have conducted various discussions. I concentrated on European Art and gave myself the role of the middle man between the Arabic speaking reader and European Art. I would present to the Arabic reader what is going on in the field of European art with more depth, I’ve also reviewed Arabic art exhibition and occasions in Europe trying as far as possible to see these from an European point of views, conveying how Europeans see us and evaluate our art.

As writing has at times taken me away from drawing I’ve tried to limit it to what is necessary even though it is a great way to learn so much more.



Pluie noire



Yousif Naser et Pluie noire


Il s’agit d’une entreprise artistique qui a commencé par un projet de peinture de Yousif Naser, contemporain du début de l’invasion militaire de l’Irak en 2003. Ce projet a rapidement acquis une grande dynamique et a suscité fortement l’intérêt des médias et enthousiasmé de nombreux artistes. Bien que le thème central du projet reste dans les peintures, les dessins et collages réalisés par Yousif Naser, de nombreuses voies se sont ouvertes vers la musique, le cinéma et la littérature et se sont construites autour de lui avec d’autres artistes. Plusieurs films ont été produits à partir de ce projet. La dernière réalisation a été un film de 35 minutes sur Yousif Naser et Pluie noire.





« La guerre en Irak a coïncidé avec la synchronisation de mon projet et a tout naturellement préoccupé les artistes irakiens exilés », dit Yousif Naser, l’un de ces exilés enfuis de Bagdad en 1979. Il est arrivé au Royaume-Uni en 1990 après avoir vécu en exil des périodes au Liban, en Syrie, à Chypre et en Norvège. Né en 1952, il est diplômé de l’académie des Beaux-arts de Bagdad. Naser a également obtenu un MA. de Beaux Arts à l’université du Middlesex en 2005. Bien que militant anti-Saddam Hussein toute sa vie, il a été arrêté par la police dès son arrivée au Royaume-Uni. Puis les autorités ont compris enfin qu’il était un opposant au régime de Saddam et non un de ses partisans.


« En ce qui concerne l’exil, je suis un expert », m’a-t-il confié alors que je lui exposai mon projet. Nous nous sommes rencontrés une première fois dans son studio de l’Ealing,


Londres Ouest, tandis que les attaques aériennes américaines et britanniques étaient lancées et que lui travaillait sur son projet Pluie noire (Réflexions sur la guerre). « Faire quelque chose » pour Naser dans ces circonstances a signifié peindre, et avec une urgence qui l’a quasiment accablé. « Il me semblait que chaque instant de retard pris dans la réalisation de mon projet aurait comme conséquence encore plus de sang versé. »

Mais tandis que Pluie noire témoigne de la catastrophe de la guerre en Irak, elle est aussi un acte d’accusation contre les horreurs et les misères de toutes les guerres. Il n’y aura aucun vainqueur. Des enfants, des soldats (compatriotes ou étrangers), des civils, des vieux et des jeunes, tous sont pris dans la misère et dans cette tragédie humaine qu’est la guerre. Il est certain que derrière son travail et son projet Pluie noire, il n’y a pas de réelle motivation politique. Ce projet constitue plutôt une diatribe contre la guerre en général. Y. Naser n’est ni anti-ni pro-Américain.

« Je vérifie chaque peinture. Si j’y vois, ne serait-ce que la plus mince allusion politique, je considère cette œuvre comme un échec », affirme-t-il. Néanmoins il se rend compte que, tout en étant capable d’exclure activement ce qu’il considère comme propagande, il n’a aucune sorte d’influence sur la manière dont les observateurs interprètent son travail et dont ils se l’approprient politiquement.

Alexandra Rotas

Historienne et critique d’art

à l’Université West of England de Bristol

(Extrait d’un entretien avec Yousif NASER)










Alexandra Rotas

Historienne et critique d’art

à l’Université West of England de Bristol

(Extrait d’un entretien avec Yousif NASER)



Born in Iraq 1952


Email :



Qualifications and Training

1979 BA in Painting, Academy of Fine Arts, Baghdad, Iraq

1987 Graphics training, International Graphics Workshop, Dresden, Germany

1994 Multimedia studies, London Polytechnic, London, England

2006 MA in Arts and Theory, Middlesex University, London, England

2009 Artist in residence, La Rochelle, France

2017 Slovenia workshop.


Solo Exhibitions

1977     Baghdad, Iraq

1981     Beirut, Lebanon

1989     Oslo, Norway

1996     London, England

1997     Brussels, Belgium

1998, 1999, 2002 London, England

2004     Damascus, Syria

2006     London, England

2008      La Rochelle, France

2010      Florence, Italy

2010      Brussels, Belgium

2012      Paris, France.

2012      London, England

2013      London, England.

2014      London England.

2014      Exeter, England.

2014      Poitiers, France.

2015      London (2 Exhibitions).

2016      London (2 Exhibitions).

2017      Basra, Iraq (workshop with local artists)

London Exhibition.


Group Exhibitions

1977 – Present:

Participated in several annual group exhibitions in varying countries around Europe,

Asia, Middle East, and North Africa.


Arab Artist Union Exhibition, Nicosia, Cyprus 1986

Dresden International Graphics Workshop, Dresden, Germany 1988

The Norwegian Print Triennale, Friedrichstaat, Norway 1989

Under Different Sky, Copenhagen, Denmark 1996

Black Rain, Reflections of War, Simunye Gallery, Sheffield, UK 2003

Black Rain, Reflections of War, Charnwood Museum, Loughborough, UK 2004.

Al Marbad, Basra, Iraq 2012, London 2013, and 2014.


Undertakings & Projects


Iraqi Artists Union:

Established the Iraqi Artists Union (IAU) in 1993 in London. This was a union for Iraqi artists in exile living and working in the UK. The IAU organised exhibitions, cultural events such as workshops, lectures, and live music performances promoting the Iraqi art movement and culture. It had a community of over 60 members.



Founded and currently runs the Ark Studio Gallery in West London in 1997. This is a voluntary art venue designed to provide a platform for the making and showing of innovative and issue based art forms. It also promotes a broad spectrum of art forms to include practitioners such as performers, musicians, photographers, film makers, designers, writers and poets as well as fine artists. Until today the Ark has facilitated and organised hundreds of activities of differing works, and now cooperatively organises three events per week with the local council.

The Ark is also the studio for Yousif Naser.


Black Rain:

Black Rain is an ongoing art undertaking which began as a painting project by Yousif Naser during the build up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It quickly acquired much momentum and generated much local media coverage. Although the central theme of the project remains in paintings, drawings, and collages by Yousif Naser, many avenues in music, film and literary arts have built up around it by other artists.

A 35 minute documentary film has been produced about Yousif and the Black Rain project.








Yousif Naser, artiste peintre, est né en 1952 à Amara (Irak) et vit aujourd’hui à Londres. Il expose depuis 1977 dans plusieurs pays d’Europe, d’Asie, du Moyen-Orient et d’Afrique du Nord. En 1993 il a fondé l’Union des Artistes Irakiens au Royaume-Uni (AIU) pour des artistes irakiens exilés. En 1997 il a créé l’ARK (association culturelle) qui, à travers ses actions (expositions, manifestations culturelles variées, ateliers, conférences, concerts, lectures, performances), se distingue radicalement dans ses intentions des organisations irakiennes soutenues par le régime irakien dictatorial aujourd’hui déchu.


Formation et qualifications :

1975 BA en peinture à l’Académie des Beaux-Arts de Bagdad, Iraq

1987 Formation en graphisme au Graphic International Workshop, à Dresde, Allemagne

1994 Etudes dans le domaine Multimédia au London Polytechnic, Londres, UK

2006 MA dans les Arts et la Théorie des Arts, Université du Middlesex, Londres, UK






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