O Gallery is pleased to present “Games,” a solo exhibition by Shahla Hosseini (b. 1954 Tehran). Shahla Hosseini’s work is to play with the functional regularities of objects. Therefore, they are of game-like installations that are self-explanatory. The rules and regularities of games are not necessarily the same symbolic doctrines as those in life and any combined allusions of nature are simply a symbolic gesture. To observe from the perspective of natural time, humankind’s destiny and vast existence, renders any symbolic historical regulation devoid of any seriousness and authority.
An Account of the Works of Shahla Hosseini
Alireza Rezayee Aghdam
Happy, who had the skill to understand
Nature’s hid causes, and beneath his feet
All terrors cast, and death’s relentless doom,
And the loud roar of greedy Acheron
In the past, prior to saving our “Likes” in folders on our computers, we would safeguard our mementos and beautiful treasures in boxes: old photographs, marbles, sea-shells, polished stones, small enamel dishes, cans and basically anything that that we wished to transform beyond its ordinary self. In other words, our personal treasures had a physical identity and had not yet been integrated into an archive per se or on a large scale. We would place those objects into a box—a small, secure space in which these favorite things would reside. In this way, Shahla Hosseini’s artistic world unfolds within a home, however, a home which is neither private, tribal nor national. Instead, it is a metaphorical home that represents the universe and the earth that we inhabit. The box, the installations and the events taking place within them, are all the artist’s interpretation of the universe; one which possesses a more poetic, compassionate and humane understanding and has turned into a house providing housing for humankind.
In order to understand the thought process of the artist, it must be understood that we are not solely faced with just the artist’s cultural interests and impressions, and that that which we see and stands out in the boxes of Shahla Hosseini, is related to her academic interests. Here, however, academia does not mean the technological functionality in a work of art, its hypothesis or assessment. Here, academia in the artist’s work is used for three motives: first is the visual aesthetics of tools, graphs, diagrams and mathematical formulas—the exploration in visual and aesthetic qualities within patterns in nature and the ironic assemblage of objects and industrial structures. Second is the complicated and complex presence of such objects in memory of the father. Anyone who is intimately connected to the artist, knows of her close affinity to this figure. In contrast to the dominant tradition of the father overshadowing the lives of his children with ethical values, here the artist’s father has maintained his presence by having left academic research, handwritten engineering formulas, and enthusiasm and interest in existential matter. Although such biographical facts may limit the audience’s understanding here, one has to note that the art of Shahla Hosseini at its significant moments is a creative, extensive and essential interpretation of personal events, memories and traumas. This fact leads us to her third motive in using scientific symbols in her work—as symbols of proof and logic which are embedded within ambiguity, poetics, intuition and the negation of death. It is this failure of science to answer fundamental humane questions and the lack of spiritual peace fulfillment that propels Hosseini’s art towards a Khayyamic notions. And not only is this true from a joyful and complacent standpoint but also from a scientific interest in understanding the limitations of human knowledge: scientific infatuation and agnosticism. Although science can explain life from its onset, however, it loses all its power in utter desperation at the moment of death.
Therefore, the artistic stage of Shahla Hosseini’s work is not the place of logical relationships and marked meaningful structures. Here, there is neither certainty nor proof and we stand before it, as we stand in the middle of our accidental, fragmented, illogical, fragile, miserable, beautiful, grand and indefinite existence. The artist attains such quality for her abstract paintings are not mere conceptual and aesthetic entities. The symbols in her detailed and careful installations possess a detachment to the painting’s perceptual and networked image of the painting: a thought provoking detachment that enhances their aesthetics to include semantics. Until now, we have regarded abstract painting as intuitive, conceptual and self-referential. Abstract painting has typically expressed contemplation and mysticism not through predetermined symbols but though the mere quality of painting itself. This quality is very much apparent in Shahla Hosseini’s paintings as seen through the gaps, convex and concave shapes and large elliptical forms. Still, the temptation to make clear references to visual signs and symbols remains: lenses, mirrors, sexual symbols, etc. This desire for representation in abstraction becomes evident at key moments such as the gray monotone visualization of the eclipse. Thus from this cosmic stance, it limits the personal and unfounded interpretations of viewers. Visual language does not possess the palpable implications of a verbal one. Hence its vastness converts its condensed and metaphorical prepositions into a mysterious expression. This visual duality is most evident in her boxes and collages—abstract marks alongside ordinary, functional and implied elements. Representation of an episode; however vague, is still persistent and absolute though not with an unfamiliar and strange language. Letters and words are familiar but the structure and combinations have been combined in the figurative sense of the language and enigmatically rearranged. Abstract painting is likely to fall into extremist subjectivism and uncontrolled imagination: the undetermined discharge of insignificant matter. But here there is an issue that reaches beyond surface and color. The viewer is given important tools to recreate, interpret and decode his freedom. We are not abandoned in a void, instead the vitality of signs impart us with active vitality. These signs and symbols can be as cold and mechanical as scientific tools, as delicate as thin fiber fiber or a jagged piece of metal. The device of scientific notions is in charge of providing calibration, formulation and order to the universe. This device of notions is placed alongside the metaphorical painterly language and together they interact and affect one another in a double-sided construction and two-folded relationship. Tools find an aesthetical expression and images find a universal horizon. In the midst of all of this, occasionally a small sculpture of an animal, human figure, or a piece of bone is included. Consequently in the artist’s assemblages, we are faced with the profound transition from scientific patterns to immense abstraction. A passage from the “existence” to the “being” of the universe. From the “existing” to the intuitive thought of “being.” An oscillating motion that urges Vahid Hakim to ask, “Do the closest forms and the farthest thoughts possess the same state?” This approach is also evident in the artist’s portrait drawings. Notice how facial expressions are made evident by simple and neutral lines yet possessing vulnerability and dependence in the extensive areas of white. One of the artist’s most outstanding drawings is of her mother just before her passing. The face, sheltered by peace, weakness and inevitable death is drawn within the endless depth of white. In each portrait, the artist presents traces of approaching death’s solitude and of her mother’s face but she does not imply within them feelings of fear and desperation and instead they are as Virgil says “without fear and with respectful silence.”
Hosseini’s work is to play with the functional regularities of objects. Therefore, they are of game-like installations that are self-explanatory. The rules and regularities of games are not necessarily the same symbolic doctrines as those in life and any combined allusions of nature are simply a symbolic gesture. To observe from the perspective of natural time, humankind’s destiny and vast existence, renders any symbolic historical regulation devoid of any seriousness and authority. Human history has been made from various periods of games, which create new rules and regulations as we go forth. When we decipher an ancient inscription, we do not expect anything definitive to be added to our knowledge. Instead we comprehend how our ancestors played their lives and with what creativity combined nature with metaphor and myth. Hence the interpretation of an inscription or scroll is not merely a question of research, it clears an aesthetic aspect in relation to everyday activities. Some of the artist’s paintings are similar to inscriptions with erased lines; in fact the interpretational action is itself the subject and supposition of the work. But here, interpretation deals with that very inscription and faded scroll. Even though we are not allowed to read metaphors of an indescribable reality, the vague inscriptions are nevertheless expressed in a halo of magic and sanctity. We are transfixed in the face of visual signs that cannot become. The magic of these inscriptions however, has been replaced by aesthetics and the aesthetics of these paintings refer to a beauty beyond our imagination.