The art of forgetting and its importance to the human psyche are explored in Dr Ala Bashir’s paintings that are on display in Dubai as part of an exhibition called Forgetfulness.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy mindset, which is often overlooked, is the ability to forget, says Iraqi artist Bashir, from the Sultan bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation, where his work is being displayed until Sunday.
His latest show portrays the strength of our human ability to “forget” past events and experiences for our overall health.
“If you don’t forget things you won’t be able to forgive, it’s a process of healing and cleansing, you get rid of the hate inside you, and have power to overcome your anger,” Bashir tells The National.
“This is the main function of art, to make you heal,” he says, when describing the paintings on the walls of the foundation.
Born in 1939, Bashir is a painter, sculpture and plastic surgeon whose work is known to portray human consciousness.
His surrealist style is often compared to Spanish artist Salvador Dali, who attempted to shake up the world with his controversial subjects that questioned social norms.
For Bashir, the majority of his paintings show the way he views reality — a reality that most people often overlook.
His works often contain a chair, a headless human body and objects shaped differently to the norm.
“People usually see only the surface of things; they look at the movement and colour of things, but I taught myself to ignore what I see and to go beyond the surface.
“I find myself asking, ‘Why do we forget? The thing we really love, we forget?’ For example, my parents, at the time they died, I don’t really remember them. There is a mechanism inside that works like healing power. Forgetfulness is the healing process. That’s why I call it this,” he says.
The exhibition features 23 oil on canvas works and 27 sketches. During the opening of the show, Bashir also gave a lecture at the gallery on his style and technique.
“I try to concentrate on the meaning of things — not the shape, not the colour, but the meaning of the subject and the object,” he says.
Bashir’s artistic talent was discovered at an early age by his primary school teacher and he was later encouraged by his father to paint and sketch. He studied medicine in Baghdad in the late 1950s, working to become a doctor by day and a painter by night, at the Baghdad College of Fine Arts.
In the early 1970s he obtained a doctorate in plastic surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and took part in many exhibitions at home and abroad.
What Bashir attempts to do in his art is help the viewer to “have the ability to see from all angles and aspects”.
“I learnt to look at the people as human beings, I will see the function of their existence and not the surface.”