The opening exhibition of Ikon 50, a year-long programme celebrating the gallery’s five-decade anniversary, centres on the work of one of the contributors to the Iraqi pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Born in Sulaimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jamal Penjweny started out as a sculptor and painter before moving into photography, supporting himself by working as a shepherd and café proprietor.
His work reflects on life in Iraq today, for example the Saddam is Here series, which examines the lingering presence of the dictator in the years after his death . Shown here in full , Iraqi people are captured in familiar surroundings, holding life-size pictures of Hussein's face in front of their own. Penjweny explains these images recognise that, 'society can not forget [Husein] even after his death because some of us still love him and the rest are still afraid of him… His shadow is still following Iraqi society everywhere'.
Also in the display, a short film by the artist which follows a group of Iraqis smuggling alcohol into Iran, and the photographic series Iraq is Flying, where Penjweny requested that his subjects were photographed as if jumping for joy, in the face of the great hardship they experience in everyday life.