Al-Azzawi started his artistic career in 1964 having studied in the Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad under the leadership and guidance of Hafidh Al-Drouby following a degree in archaeology which has continued to have a profound impact on his art. Spending much of his time at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, the extensive collection of famous monumental works of Mesopotamian and Islamic art significantly influenced Al-Azzawi's oeuvre. He began to combine techniques of contemporary painting with motifs drawn from the Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian heritage of Iraq and with geometric patterning drawn and arabesque from the contemporary tribal culture of the desert. This eventually lead him to establish the New Vision Group (al-Ru'yya al-Jadidah) in 1969 debating themes such as identity and modernity that serve as the backbone of his work today.
From the mid-1960s until the mid-1970s Al-Azzawi depicted human figures within his canvases that resembled those of Mesopotamian sculpture. The present work from 1972 is a seminal example capturing Al-Azzawi's fascination with themes of martyrdom, utilising the visual lexicon of Iraq's heritage. A single figure floats effortlessly within a sea of pinks, the prominent round eye and
figure's geometrical simple appearance is a nod to the Mesopotamian figurines that were so iconic to the artist. The present painting has combinations of colours not seen in his later paintings rendering it very unique in its expansive use of a bright colour that dominates the canvas. It was at the end of the 1970s that Al-Azzawi developed what is now his distinctive bright colour palette.
Upon his immigration to London in 1976 and his reintroduction to collections of Islamic manuscripts and poetry that were found in museum collections there, Al-Azzawi continued to explore the connection of the written word, the visualisation of the Arabic language and painting. It was also a time where he explored the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh which served as an appropriate tie to his archaeological background. In the present work,
Al-Azzawi aims to capture themes of immortality and empowerment that match his ideologies of the 1970s tackling martyrdom, pain and suffering as a social commentary on the political situation in Iraq at that time. The themes of war and the groups that opposed the status quo continue to this day to be the underlying inspiration to many of the artist's compositions. It is his way of fighting for the 'Cause' i.e. the plight of the Palestinians, Iraqis and Syrians alike.