The eclectic work of Jassim Zaini employs a variety of styles to document Qatari life. Nourished by his country’s culture, Zaini’s work bears witness in paint to a society in transformation. The first Qatari to pursue academic art training outside his country, Zaini graduated in 1968 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad, where he was influenced by Iraqi artists such as Faiq Hassan (1914−1991) and Hafidh Al Droubi (1914−1991). Zaini was also a founding member of the Qatar Fine Arts Society, which was established in 1980.
Zaini’s Abstraction of the Word “Qatar” can be read as both a painted word and as texture and architecture. Connecting his personality as an artist to his identity as a citizen of Qatar, Zaini emphasizes the geometric form of the three letters (رطق, or “q-t-r”), whose round edges he squares, and the verticality of the central “t”, which extends up to the top edge of the painting. The warm and dark hues of brown, beige and yellow echo the colors of the Qatari desert, a place that has long inspired many local artists. In Features from Qatar, Zaini depicts two stylized figures — the artist and his sister — wearing traditional dress in an undefined, thickly painted background. In the center of the painting, Zaini’s sister sews a button — an actual button rather than a painted one — onto the clothes of her exaggeratedly elongated and horizontal brother, whose body fills the painting’s foreground. Although their gazes do not meet, the figures’ physical proximity emphasizes their intimacy, a poignant reflection on family relationships and affection painted during a time of widespread social and economic change in Qatar.