Paul Batou bares soul of Middle East in his art

One of my favorite artists is  Paul Batou  who I had the pleasure of meeting in 2003.  His work incorporates several universal themes such as the sorrows of war,  the fear of uncertainty and the yearning for freedom. The above painting is called the Dance in the Middle  East.  Paul said he painted it during the uprising in Egypt this year.  In the painting the Dance is spreading her dress,  but there is tension in her face as she does not know what will happen later.  She dances for freedom and human rights.  The painting will be  featured among many others of Batou’s work from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Saturday, Dec. 10,  at White Art Framing & Restoration,  2413 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, CA.  It is sponsored by the Assyrian Aid Society of Los Angeles.  Below is part of a story I wrote about him (Daily News, 2003):

GLENDALE – In his painting  “Marriage Under  Sanction,” artist Paul Batou finds sadness in a happy moment. 

“Let us drink and drink,” the words painted in Arabic say throughout the image of a bride and groom who are marrying during the 10-year United Nations sanctions in Iraq after the first Gulf War.  “With every drink, there will be an Iraqi who will die.”

A Burbank artist whose work goes on display today at a Glendale gallery, Batou has filled his paintings with images from his life in Iraq, one in which he served with an army medical unit during the Iran-Iraq War. 

“It was like a horror movie,”  said the soft-spoken, 44-year-old Batou who now earns his living as a pharmacist.  “It was so hard to go outside and collect bodies. That’s what we did.” 

The exhibit,  “From Baghdad to America,”  reflects much of Batou’s thoughts of his homeland, which he left in 1989, from when Babylonians and Assyrians ruled the empires, to the appearance of Christianity and Islam and the destruction left by wars, both ancient and contemporary. 

Of the 28 pieces on display, some are surrealist in style, others more abstract, and are painted in warm Southwestern tones and include American Indian images. 

Batou said that like the American Indians, the native people of Iraq, such as the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Akkadians, lost their homeland. Modern Iraq also is in danger of losing its identity, he said. 

Gallery owner Aris Ajand calls Batou’s work timely. 

“What interested me the most was his influence of Babylonia and Native America,” Ajand said.  “I haven’t seen it done this way. It transcends politics. He shows that with all that has happened there, there is a bright light that shines through.” 

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