State Press Places: The new Green Leaf Art Gallery in Phoenix

Iraqi artist portrays controversial ideas through art

Podcaster Diana Dudurkaewa sits down with Bassim Al Shaker, an artist from Iraq, to discuss the new Green Leaf Art Gallery here in Phoenix. They examine the new gallery, the inspiration behind his paintings and the opportunity ASU students have to collaborate.


Diana Dudurkaewa: If you are someone who has an appreciation for art or would like to showcase your own work then the new Green Leaf Art Gallery here in Phoenix is just for you. It’s a place where you can stop by, relax and take in all the artistic creations. 

Bassim Al Shaker: Hi my name is Bassim. My art name is Bassim Al-Shaker. I'm an artist. I'm from Iraq, from Middle East. I opened the new gallery, called the Green Leaf Gallery. For me I want to put more interesting artists and more high-level art because I feel that Phoenix is like my city, so after I left Baghdad and Baghdad is my love but I can't go back there so this is my second city here. I am trying to change something. I'm sorry to say that I don't like what I see in downtown. I don't like the the level of the art here. At the galleries in downtown we have First Friday and all those things and we are not showing a very high quality of art. We are showing just art, not very high quality. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: A company named Brother Stone sold their building to Green Leaf. After this, that is when the art gallery came to be. Here’s a bit on the goals of the art gallery and what the paintings represent. 

Bassim Al Shaker: I like figure paintings, I like portraits, I like techniques, but for me this is not really art. For me, this is just to study how to do the techniques on something. My art, I can't paint without idea. If I paint anything, I need to put ideas in my paintings and the people around the world they like to hear the ideas, they like to see the ideas. They need to hear from this person from this country what he has in there in his mind, what he will show to the world, what he will show to the art community. 

I always have many different ideas and many different things to do. For example, I am doing now the symphony paintings, I'm talking about the whole the religion in the world. I think after this show I cannot go to the Middle East. I hope I can, but I'm talking about ideas for what's going on in the world from people who use religion to kill one another. So, this is a very dangerous thing and no one really focuses so much about it. We just focus about it with the news. I wish they will do something to just kill it and not have these ideas anymore because people are people anywhere. It doesn't matter if they are from here from there, from this religion or from this religion. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: Let’s now dive a little more into Bassim’s background and how this ties into his paintings. 

Bassim Al Shaker: The art is really the food of my soul. Many people also ask me "Why you have this idea? So many ideas, where do they come from?" I am from Iraq. I'm from the biggest and the oldest history in the world; Sumerian, Babylon, I'm from all these things. It was a very dangerous country, but now it's better. 

I came from a very interesting country. The people there in Iraq, they really appreciate the art. We always have ideas, we have always liked something with art but just no one focuses on it. People focus on the killing, the bombs, and other things but we have so many things going on and I hope they will focus on it and they will show the other face of this country. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: Will ASU students be able to collaborate with the art gallery? 

Bassim Al Shaker: Of course, I am from ASU. ASU brought me here and I would love to have the students always come here for talking, showing the art and making workshops. I'm doing the workshops now but we are doing a very high level workshop for the academic paintings and drawings. Also, we will do photography, sculptures and ceramic. Of course, I would be more than happy to, it'll be amazing. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: Here’s a little note Bassim leaves for ASU students.

Bassim Al Shaker: When I came to America, I started from zero. I didn't have a language, I didn't have work, I didn't have anything. My feelings are different than other people's feelings here. Everything is different. 

I came here when I was age 27. So I want to tell the people that are coming from different countries or different states and the students in ASU, I want to tell them to push yourself always and don't look to yourself like you are a normal person. Always look to yourself as the best and know anything you do big, you can do bigger than this, you can do better and bigger always. There is no limit for good. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: For the State Press, I am Diana Dudurkaewa 




Previous episodes: 

Dorks Estate: Desert WAVE, ASU's first all-female underwater robotics team

Dorks Estate: Augmented reality technology makes automated medical visits possible for students


Reach the reporter at ddudurka@asu.edu and on Twitter @DianaPress55.

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