May 23, 2010

He's on top of the art world

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

Ahmed Alsoudani, who grew up in Baghdad, fills his paintings with vivid colors and graphic imagery depicting his feelings about war in Iraq.

Bob Keyes/Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

As with this painting, Alsoudani’s images, created on huge pieces of canvas and paper in oil, acrylic, charcoal and pastel, reflect the pain and turmoil caused by war. Viewers will see references to Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Goya.

Courtesy of the artist

Additional Photos Below

The studio is neat, orderly. Small tables hold tubes of paint, and strands of tape pile up on the floor. Ladders lean against a wall.



His success has earned him latitude in his schedule, but Alsoudani maintains a routine. He generally arrives at the studio around noon and works late into the night. Alsoudani spends about 10 hours a day in his studio -- but less than half that time actively working. "Laziness is part of the process of painting," he said, laughing. But the laugh merely relieves the tension. He estimates that during any given day, he makes somewhere between 10 and 15 decisions that affect the outcome of a painting.

It's solitary work "and it's why painters drink," he said. "the end of the day, you need a drink."

Painting gives him his greatest joy, and alone in the privacy of his studio Alsoudani finds a way to shut out the noise. He is under great pressure to continue to produce valuable works. He tries not to dwell on the business side of his career, though he admits it's hard not to think about it all the time when the stakes keep rising. Not very long ago, he thought it was "crazy" that people would spend $25,000 for one of his paintings. Now, the conversation starts at $70,000.

He makes no apologies for enjoying the benefits of his status, and gives ready credit to the discipline that he learned as an undergrad at MECA for keeping him grounded and focused. He is certain he would not have succeeded if not for attention he received at the Portland art school.

"It's a small community, and they care. I don't think that I would be able to survive as a student anywhere else except there. For the first two or probably three years, I was literally needing someone to work with me one-on-one all the time. And it happened."

He also knows that he is lucky -- in life and in art. He got out of Baghdad just in time and ended up in Maine at just the right time. He takes nothing for granted, and knows that what he's achieved today could be gone tomorrow. He also knows that his journey has just begun.

If nothing else, the hard truths of his own life have taught him at least that much.

"Looking at the history of painting, the moment you start to neglect your work people start to neglect you. You'll probably be OK for two years or so, but the moment you think you dominate your spot, you're mistaken. Literally, there are tens of thousands of artists just in New York. Do I ever think I'm better than they are? No. I've had a better chance to show my work. I'm luckier than they are.

"Hopefully I will spend my life painting and creating something that people pay attention to for the long run."


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:


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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Courtesy of the artist

click image to enlarge

Ahmed Alsoudani, who grew up in Baghdad, fills his paintings with vivid colors and graphic imagery depicting his feelings about war in Iraq.

Bob Keyes/Staff Writer


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