Shirazeh Houshiary

26 Feb – 23 Mar 2013

Breath

Shirazeh Houshiary’s work inhabits the interstices that separate presence and absence, being and not-being. Employing a range of media incorporating painting, sculpture and animation, her work arrives out of a desire to capture the intangible essence that underlies existence. 

Houshiary’s compositions, whether finely wrought skeins of pencil and pigment, armatures of aluminium or fleeting digital apparitions, evoke impossible topographies. Though elusive and visually confounding, Houshiary’s works are invested with a vital energy that, while exposing the limits of human perception, registers as an intensely physical presence.

On view in this exhibition, her first in India, is Breath, a four-channel video conceived in 2003. Presented across four screens, Breath choreographs the evocative chants of Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Islamic prayers with images of the expanding and contracting breath of the vocalists. The prayers rise and fall, swell and dissipate in a haunting chorus, penetrating the fabric of the space beyond and unfurling in the round. 

Also on display is a suite of new paintings called 'Presence'. Houshiary's paintings intentionally stand at the very edge of perception, the signs both emerging from nothingness and melting back into it. Starting always with a black or white aquacryl, she layers the canvas with pigments, then inscribes layers of text in graphite pencil on top, like a fine gauze. The text is composed of two Arabic words, one an affirmation, the other a denial, merged into an unintelligible repeated symbol. 'One is positive, one is negative,' Houshiary explains, 'and they are crushed together to create the vibration you feel on the surface of the painting. That tension is essential.'

Download full list of works