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Ruins Technique


Malallah developed Ruins Technique while she was living in Iraq in the 1980s. She witnessed the destruction of her homeland and heritage over nearly four decades and at least three international conflicts. Through seeing this destruction first-hand, the artist was struck by the ephemeral nature of existence and came to believe that “ruination is the essence of all being”. She began to explore the liminal space between existence and obliteration, which she likens to the space between the figurative and the abstract. Her mathematical focus as a post-graduate also led her to conclude that all figuration is essentially made up of abstract symbols. These date back to Ancient Mesopotamian semiotic systems, which the artist knew well from frequent visits to the National Museum of Iraq. 

The act of destruction is crucial in Mallalah’s work, for it produces the waste materials needed prior to creation. Since the 1970s, destruction itself has been the starting point of her creative process, which allowed the artist to explore the space between nonentity and entity, and seek knowledge within. She made artworks out of found objects and destroyed material, eschewing traditional artistic materials. What started as conscious rejection soon became necessity of situation, as sanctions were imposed upon Iraq throughout the 1990s.

After leaving Iraq in 2006, she continued to make work using Ruins Technique. She no longer considers her use of this technique to be connected to her personal experience in Iraq, rather it is a contemporaneous comment upon destruction and the inherent violent nature of the human condition worldwide. 

Ruins Technique permeates all of Malallah’s work, and she creates soft sculpture by burning canvas, making pouches filled with ash and eviscerating the very fabric of the artworks. Over time it has developed into sub-categories, such as Camouflage Technique and Shroud Technique. In her works using taxidermy, such as the Hoopoe bird, it is significant that the creature is dead and often dismembered, just like the empty pouches and obsolete objects featured in works using Ruins Technique. She describes these as “abstraction rooted deeply in the reality of war and violence.”


Louisa Macmillan

October 2014

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