To define an emotion or a non-physical condition through the limitations of physical media is the practically impossible equivalent of trying to define ‘nothing’ and ‘everything’ at the same time. Despite this, in her 7th exhibition for the Lisson Gallery, Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary has achieved exactly that; once again addressing the contradiction between what is explicated and implicated.
From a distance, each painting has a fluidity of texture and colour that emits a haunting beauty; a romantic chaos which seems to come to life against the clean white backdrop of the gallery. However, with closer observation, the multiple layers of each painting are apparent; almost reminiscent of reptilian scales. Accomplished with a base of aquacryl and then traced over with pencil, a depth of dimension – both in terms of the materials and messages – is created, which Houshiary herself alludes to in her piece, Deep (2010). As with an emotion, each painting has a raw quality to it that is personal to an individual; others may recognise a similar essence but will never experience the same effect that each raw quality has on another. A convict is created between themes of potential and emptiness, romanticism and skepticism, harsh and gentle; each painting displaying the capacity for both interpretations, such as with the human mind.
The same contradiction exists in her sculptures as well as her paintings. While on first glance they are almost seductive in their curved, flowing silhouettes, on closer inspection they are broken; metal is welded with visible joins, Lacuna (2011), and seemingly fractured, Tear (2011); Stretch (2011) using anodised aluminium cuboids. In this way, as is evident throughout the exhibition, there is something internally human about Houshiary’s work. A vulnerability is expressed through the broken structure of the composition, which then sits as a paradox to the confidence of each piece as a whole. This link between observer and the observed, although unseen, is eminent throughout the exhibition.The minimalist backdrop of the Lisson Gallery perfectly complements the drama in Houshiary’s work; appearing to enhance the fluid movement within the pieces. Every composition seems to rebel against the simplicity of its surroundings, and thus creates a harsh illusion in which the canvases lacerate the space they are confined to. With a complete lack of alternative distractions, the eye becomes subconsciously immersed in the turbulent world that Houshiary has created. It is only at this point of personal involvement, that we can recognise the impossible, chaotic and powerful emotion within the work; and consequentially, within ourselves.