Shirazeh Houshiary: No Boundary Condition
29 Bell Street
London NW1 5BY
12 October through 12 November 2011
It starts out gently, Shirazeh Houshiary’s new exhibition. The first thing that meets the eyes is a soft flush of rose spreading across the canvas, practically glowing under the bright lights. Visible from the street as you approach the Lisson Gallery’s second space on Bell Street, the art seems to pop from the crisp white walls. It is all so quiet and delicate at first, almost simple, but then everything begins to change and things are no longer so certain.
‘Nothing has no centre and its boundaries are nothingness’; this is the Leonardo da Vinci quote introducing Houshiary’s exhibition. No Boundary Condition aims to explore the invisible form, and the Iranian-born artist has employed large-scale painting, sculpture and video installation as she tackles this lofty subject. Opposite of the rose-flushed piece first greeting visitors is Lacuna, a cluster of spirals springing from the wall. The piece seems to float, losing its weight but casting long shadows down the wall. You can see it from the other side of the gallery, how it makes its mark on the shiny surfaces: the floor, the smooth, frosted glass panes.
There is a pattern to all the pieces making up this exhibition, starting with the blue and pink aluminium sculptures, stacked up like heavy dominoes seemingly begging to be tipped. The pattern continues in the paintings, which grow darker as you walk further into the gallery. The works are based around words, according to the exhibition literature: “The paintings are composed using two words which are crushed upon one another and bound together as if they cannot be divided. They are repeated in alternating sequences of semantics, one an affirmation, the other a denial, one is quick, one is slow.” But this wordplay is barely noticeable unless you know they are there. Instead the texture comes across as something akin to a fishnet, meticulously drawn in pencil across the large-scale paintings where the artist has added layers of colour and texture onto the aquacryl base. In any case the result is a feeling that there is something organic about the works, a sense of something emerging. The patterns seem to change depending on how close you stand and how long you look; wait long enough and the shapes start to expand and contract, vibrating like something with a pulse.
Dust, Houshiary’s video installation piece, is running on loop downstairs. The movement happens so slowly that at first it seems the images may be static, but then it becomes clear: in numerous frames shown side by side we see soot spread on the wall behind a flame, before disappearing. Leaning back on the wall in the dark room you watch the grey on white emerge, and you realise that although logic dictates that the video’s movement is real and the paintings are static, it is still hard to be certain. Everything Houshiary does seems to hover at the edge of perception; real or otherwise, the pulsations in her work are everywhere, and they happen softly, so softly.