One of this year's most compelling art shows isn't in New York or Philly, but right here in Kennett Square at Longwood Art Gallery. "Reflections of Hope" features the paintings of Iraqi Thamer Dawood. He is in the process of obtaining a visa and hopes to bring his family over from his hometown, Baghdad. Like too many folks, this writer is ignorant of the fact that even as a police state, Baghdad was not a throwback to the middle ages. Hence, western art was seen and appreciated and it is the direction that he went with his work.Combining abstract art with a deeply personal figurative aspect that touches on a language of his own making, "Friendship" overflows with import and meaning. Of course, the palette and composition brings to mind arguably the most influential abstract artist of all time, Mark Rothko.

Yet there is also an atmosphere to the background palette that suggest a landscape as well, with a grand green expanse on the right giving way to a pair of orange bands beneath the circle that spills out odd images. This ground is indeed the ground, while above is a sky that shifts ever so slightly from one hue of blue to another.

At once haunting and lovely is "Baghdad in the Night." This starts off all abstract, with a background consisting of a number of blue and green squares and rectangles. However, there is an overlay of two images.

On the left is a silhouette of a man and either his shadow or doppelganger, while to his immediate right is a field of red sporting green and yellow highlights, its form akin to a pillar of flame. Or perhaps something else altogether. Between it and the silhouette is an orange square with varied abstract and improvisational designs, plus some numbers. What can be inferred from these is myriad, though laced with sadness more than anything else.

On the purely abstract side, one of the most intense paintings is "Pain and Happiness." This is a mix of rectangular planes superimposed by a blobby field of gold. Yes, gold. The palette here is what separates it from work done on this side of the planet, in that most gold found in American art is bright gold leaf. Not so with this paining.

Here we have a columnar shape flanking the right in rich crimson that encases various scarlet images that could be letters of an alphabet yet to exist. This is bordered by a thin vertical band of even brighter red. Beside that is the field of gold, the happiness, if you will. It is a burnished shade while the blobs coursing over it are a brighter gold, with other images and colors adding to its full force.

"Reflections of Hope" is an experience that can literally change one's life and lend fresh insight to a city now left in ruins by war.

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