17 February – 10 March 2017
“When I look back, the Garden is a dream to me. It was surpassingly beautiful, and now it is lost, and I shall not see it anymore.”
– The Diaries of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain
Imagine the sensation of place. Not of a vibrant visual assault of colours and shapes, but of a feeling. An impression that tugs on your heart strings. An impression that is hinted at in its very absence. Felt in its loss. Heard in the soft rustle of foliage unseen. The gentle caress of a breeze on your cheek and sounds half-heard somewhere on the edges of your mind. Mohsen Gallery is pleased to announce “Elsewhere” an experiential solo exhibition by Shaqayeq Arabi, which sees the artist take over the 2 x 3 x 10 metre Pasio space of the gallery. “Elsewhere” will connect sky to ground through a sensory installation that engages with the intangible space between the real and unreal, waking and dream, that which exists and that which has been lost forever.
Working in found material, Arabi’s assemblages are often composed of simple materials, fundamentally abstract, yet evoking a range of associations. They speak to both the built, urban environment and the natural world by combining the textures of found objects with the rawness of materials such as wood, tree branches, dried flowers or pieces found in construction sites. By combining found natural and industrial objects from everyday life, her work examines the different forms and textures of materials, and, through them, the balance between the expressively abstract and the suggestively pictorial. They propose a metamorphosis from the base, synthetic nature of their materials to the ethereal nature of a composition – be it installation or sculpture.
In “Elsewhere”, Arabi proposes the notion of a space that is felt before it is seen; intuited before it is experienced. She works with material, light and shadow to create the sensation that every surface and every part of the room’s volume is inhabited by feeling. Building on previous series, such as The Hanging Garden (in which dried and desiccated trees and bushes hung suspended within a gallery space, filtering their shadows across the walls) and Study of an Upturned Ziggurat (in which an architectural shape filled the room like an angular tornado), her site-specific works fill every crevice with their being, both tangibly and intangibly.
“Elsewhere” features as its focal point an umbrella-like installation of branches. Hovering beneath the Pasio’s skylight, the effect is of dappled sunlight on the floor and walls. In doing so, Arabi literally brings down the sun, connecting the sky with the ground, creating an installation that acts as a conduit between the two – heaven to earth. This umbrella-like foliage will be enhanced by hidden lights, replacing the waning sun as it sets early in the winter. Viewers will see the installation’s shadows along the wall, potentially hear soft sounds, maybe even feel a slight breeze, perhaps be able to breathe in the earthy scent of foliage, before they enter the space proper. Rather like the Platonic Allegory of the Cave, what they sense to be reality will at first be but a shadow of what is hidden from them. But unlike Plato’s unlucky cave dwellers, here, viewers are able to fully enter the room, turn the corner and see with their own eyes just what it is that casts this alluring shadow.
Tehran was once a green city, full of vast, sprawling gardens and verdant orchards. This vision of a wonderful garden, glimpsed through smell, air, shadow and sensation, harks to the notion of a lost Garden of Eden, a sort of earthly paradise potentially lost forever, yet existing still, within communal memory, alluringly and elusively just out of reach. Under the umbrella of a canopy of leaves, perhaps we could sit, as if in a garden in summer, enjoying the shade of a tree that both exists and doesn’t exist – if they close their eyes, in their minds eye, there floats a waking dream, a walking memory, a fantasy-reality that hovers between the living and the dead, the tangible and intangible, all at once.
Information for journalists:
Shaqayeq Arabi (b. 1974) is a painter, sculptor and installation artist living between Tehran, Dubai and New York City. Starting to paint and practice calligraphy in the early 1990s, she received her Bachelor in Graphic Design from Al-Zahra University Tehran, a BFA from University of Valencinnes, France and an MFA from Sorbonne University, Paris. Arabi’s works are fundamentally abstract yet evoke a range of associations. For her, art is a form of spontaneous personal expression, as well as an exploration of her past and present memory. She finds her point of departure in image, sound and smell, as well as the sensitivity of the surrounding environment. In sketching, composing and connecting accumulated fragments together, Arabi traces her reminiscences, creating a tangible and touchable reality out of the emotions and sensations. Arabi has had exhibitions in the Middle East, North America and Europe.
MOHSEN Gallery has been a constant, vital force in the art scene of Iran and has introduced many renowned artists’ work to the public for the first time. The gallery actively represents an international group of leading contemporary artists and estates, embracing diverse artistic practices, from painting, sculpture and photography to video, performing art and new media. Artists represented have exhibited extensively in museums, galleries, biennales and art fairs world-wide. The gallery has been promoting Iranian creatives since its establishment, including both emerging and established artists. Over the past six years, MOHSEN Gallery has mounted more than 200 solo and group exhibitions and 140 events and has published over 300 catalogues and 5 books. The gallery publications complement its exhibition program. Carefully selected writers and respected critics provide insight to the artists’ working process, resulting in exhibition catalogues that are not only creatively designed and printed, but which add to the scholarship of contemporary artistic discourse.
Alongside Mohsen’s exhibition, talks, events and educational programme, Pasio is a monthly artist commission series initiated by the gallery to support the work of promising artists. Pasio, which translates to ‘Patio’, is a courtyard at the heart of the gallery with an area of 7m2 and height of 9m with a skylight connecting the inside with the skyscape outside. This space’s unique size and dimensions allows for experimentation, whilst also allowing for a closer engagement with newly commissioned works by artists, further contributing to Mohsen’s commitment to supporting artists’ practices.