The arabic words adorning Shirazeh Houshiary’s work are something to be seen. Without a familiarity to the language system, the press release is the only way of discerning that the patterning is in fact made up of words. From far away, they form a field that sits in front of the viewers eye, slightly obscuring the image below of swirling clouds akin to those found in photographs taken by the Hubble Telescope. At a close distance, with nose almost pressed to the canvas, the word-patterning takes on a new meaning, taking the focus of the piece away from the undulation of below.
The attention to these pieces and the time involved in such a repetitive task is familiar to some of my own work, though my clocks formed a pattern that I had never intended or thought about happening, rather than the deliberate pattern creation seen in the detail shots.
Houshiary works by rubbing the pigments onto the laid out surface by hand, limiting the paintings to her own reach. I guess this human element to the processes, both her involvement with the painting and the writing on top gives the paintings an underbelly not instantly recognisable on first glance. I am not sure whether that’s necessarily a good thing or not though. Some people believe that the whole story should be available on the canvas, which I wouldn’t say is true here.
The sculptures are all concerned with twisting and the appearance of something soft being of something hard. But beyond that, the bricks in ‘Sylph’ attempt to ‘generate a fluid movement’, each new layer is slightly altered above the others, each individual brick a footprint on the journey round, the tension of a spiral suggesting both growth and collapse.
The show itself was good, the large space of the Lisson allowed me to look around and at the paintings from various distances, showing how the patterns change the perception of each piece with that distance.