The Summer Show features 8 artists from Europe and the Middle East from different generations working with painting and sculpture: Shahriar Ahmadi, Alfred Basbous, Bahram Hanafi, Arash Lahiji, Erik Saglia, Ramin Shirdel, Mehrdad Shoghi and Mohammad Reza Yazdi. The show is curated around the exploration of the human form and the abstract properties of the script.
Shahriar Ahmadi’s (born 1970, Kamiaran, Iran) work refers to the great Iranian epic of the Shahnameh written by poet Ferdowsi as well as to the poems of Sufi mystic Rumi and themes of the Islamic tradition. His two paintings Soul of Universe (2013) and Untitled (2013) from the ‘Miraj’ series explore the fine line between abstraction and figuration and represent the romance and mysticism permeating Persian poetry and mythology.
Alfred Basbous’s (born 1923, Rachana, Lebanon) sculptures ‘Phoenician Head’ (2003), ‘Woman Nude’ (2001) and ‘Accolade’ (1993) refer to the tradition of Modernism, in particular to the works of Henry Moore and Jean Arp. Alfred Basbous’s work explores the abstract property of the human form through organic and noble materials such as wood, stone and marble. Basbous is known as one of the leading modernist sculptors in Lebanon and the Middle East and his sculptures are featured in the permanent collections of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Musee Rodin in Paris as well as in many public and private collections throughout the Middle East and Europe.
Erik Saglia (born 1989, Turin, Italy) explores the materiality and formality of abstraction and reassesses the nature of the ‘modernist grid’. By restructuring the grid with graph paper and spray and covering it with a thick layer of resin, Saglia emphasizes its material aspect and creates sculptural painting out of coloured shapes and lines. The artist’s experimentation with the surface of the abstract canvas reassesses the heritage of the Spatialist movement embodied by artists such as Lucio Fontana and Alighiero Boetti while his exploration of the formal properties of abstract art reinterprets the traditions of Modernism and Colour Field paintings epitomized by artists such as Sonia Delaunay and Frank Stella.
Ramin Shirdel’s (born 1981, Tehran, Iran) sculpture Eshgh (red) (2015) explores the abstract and sculptural properties of the Arabic script while referring to the Italian Spatialist tradition and to the Pop Art movement. By turning the letter ‘E’, symbolizing the word ‘Eshgh’ or ‘Love’ in Farsi, into a layered sculpture, Shirdel emphasizes the abstract and spatial properties of the script in a playful way reminiscent of Pop artists such as Robert Indiana.
Mohammad Reza Yazdi’s (born 1986, Tehran, Iran) sculpture Item #2 from the ‘Deep Breathing’ series (2015) merges the tradition of Islamic abstraction with Kinetic Art. The intricate composition of geometric shapes in the artist’s sculpture directly allude to the rich tradition of geometric patterns found in Islamic art. However, the sculpture takes another dimension by being composed of movable, motorized parts that rotate at the pace of a person’s breathing, thereby creating a shifting pattern of kaleidoscopic shapes dizzying the viewer. The Kinetic aspect of the sculpture challenges the practice of Islamic arts by bringing an innovative and contemporary twist to a millenary tradition.
Bahram Hanafi (born 1966, Tehran, Iran), Mehrdad Shoghi (born 1972, Tehran, Iran) and Arash Lahiji (born 1975, Tehran, Iran) explore the abstract properties of the Arabic script. By turning the script into bold and intricate abstract canvases, the artists transcend the cultural and linguistic origins of the script to give it a universal and timeless quality. Working across different generations and in their individual style, each artist represents a highly idiosyncratic and original take on the art of abstract calligraphy.