Riyadh Ghenea

  • Riyadh Ghenea

  • Riyadh was born in Iraq, where he lived before immigrating to Canada in 1998. His heart never abandoned Iraq, however, as his practice has been defined by his cultural identity in the context of art as witness, employing iconography of mixed cultural sources, such as Sumerian and Iraqi, while in the context of his chosen North American home.

    Riyadh’s formal education began at the University of Baghdad in 1986, where he went on to receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts with a specialization in painting in 1992. In Iraq, Riyadh set himself apart as a primarily abstract painter while his contemporaries were focused on realism and portraiture. The political contention within the country created a restricted culture, thus Riyadh used abstraction as a means to express himself and his beliefs freely.

    His personal politics has been a constant throughout his artistry. Upon landing in Canada, Riyadh used his art as an introduction, a bridge between cultural change and himself in attempting to explore a new form of art representing not only urban visions, but also what is inherent within us. By merging together, the elements of his Arabic background into the urban landscape of Canadian cities, Riyadh has taken it upon himself to aid in spreading the rich cultures of his heritage to North America, both of which operate as a home: “Thus I strive in my work to refer the circumstances around me to broader social questions affirming both culture and identity of self.” He returned to Baghdad in 2016 as a response to the July 3rd terrorist attack that left 300 dead in the city. In an act of solidarity, Riyadh organized a pop-up show in Baghdad and invited 16 other artists to participate before the police illegally closed down the show. While the show only lasted a few hours, it had been witnessed by many and documented in the photos shared to the world.

    Philosophy, too, guides Riyadh as a principle for his artistic process. Seeing his work as symbolic of city life, Riyadh takes the shape of the city and his own self-identity in a didactic urban landscape in composing each painting. Like the constant construction of a bustling urban space, Riyadh often works on multiple paintings at a time to create a dialogue with each other in his cohesive oeuvre with each line and shape built and breaking through to create a new form. And as he believes in his paintings operating in eternity, they are each an idea with a never-ceasing need to grow and earn new meanings with each view.

    Through his decades-long career, Riyadh Hashim has been prolific in the art world. In addition to his painterly practice, Riyadh has designed and has been teaching art classes for all ages and backgrounds since April 2000, as well as having given seminars and workshops for UBC, VCC, Emily Carr University, D.One Art Studio, the University of Wasit, and is an art instructor in Diwaniya. Riyadh has participated in both solo and group exhibitions throughout Canada, the United States, and the Middle East.