British painter Xavier Pick, also called “War Artist,” is one of few artists who has documented the life of British soldiers in Iraq away from the battlefield.
Xavier Pick, a Brit of Lebanese origins, was chosen by the British Ministry of Defense to depict the movements of British soldiers in Iraq over a six-week period.
The fact that Pick hails from Lebanon was the reason behind his interest in the Middle East and his eagerness to accompany the British army in Iraq.
Pick’s paintings focus on the life of British soldiers away from the battlefield. The purpose of appointing him was to show the positive side of the British presence in Iraq through depicting soldiers reconstructing the country like building schools, hospitals, and transportation networks.
Pick argues that his work is different because although it portrays a country at war, it does not really portray war itself. In his opinion, people do not want to buy paintings about war and conflicts and that is why his work is more suitable for museums and exhibitions.
Pick’s work is also different because it focuses on the human side as he tries to convey the feelings of British soldiers through portraying their facial expressions.
To carry out the duty assigned to him, Pick was granted 24-hour access to the army and throughout the six months he spent in Iraq, he produced thousands of sketches, photographs, and videos and is currently preparing to show his work in exhibitions to be held in London and Portsmouth.
Pick’s long stay in Iraq and his paintings enabled him to interact with the Iraqi people. According to Pick, it is the warmth of the Iraqis that encouraged and helped him in the production of his artistic project.
Although he was chosen as the official artist of the Iraq war and was thus called the “War Artist,” Pick prefers to be called the “Peace Artist” and hopes that his exhibition will be a bridge between East and West.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)