Shirazeh Houshiary, ‘The River is Within Us’, 2015, STPI

Throughout Houshiary's practice, text has been employed as a means to “capture breath” - symbolic of one’s “own existence, transcending name, nationality and cultures”, and it continues to be a core feature especially with her poetic series The River is Within Us (2016). Houshiary combined 2-3 thin layers of handmade paper with perspex to form these ‘tablets’ that illuminate a single word selected from the Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic, Mandarin and Latin languages; their colours reflecting emotional states and respective nationalities. Together they challenge our perception of similarities and differences between cultures, with the ultimate emphasis on the absolute interconnectedness of humanity.

Subtle yet radiant in appearance, as Hubbard cites, they “glow like skin, so the passing of time, the accretions of history and entropy are all implied”, furthermore, “their radiance also suggest not only the divine light of European religious art, but the ambient light of the computer, the ubiquitous means of communication in the modern world”. This for Houshiary “has become the paper for the next generation”.

About Shirazeh Houshiary

Shirazeh Houshiary, who emerged in the early 1980s with British sculptors like Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, and Anish Kapoor, first became known for her allusive environments and biomorphic sculptural forms. However, in the following decade, Houshiary increasingly created drawings and monochromatic paintings of delicate geometric patterns composed of 13th-century Arabic poetry. Eschewing any fixed categorization, Houshiary’s works recall diverse artistic traditions, from Islamic architecture and calligraphy to the paintings of Western artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Agnes Martin. Even Houshiary’s monumental spiral towers of anodized aluminum suggest Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column (1938) and the four-screen video animation Breath (2003) draws on Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Sufism. “I set out to capture my breath,” said Houshiary, “to find the essence of my own experience, transcending name, nationality, cultures.”

Iranian, b. 1955, Iran, based in London, United Kingdom