on hosni, why change always involves force…

I’ll keep it brief, but isn’t it nice to see Hosni!

It seems so long now and I for one have been missing him. Of course his ‘former’ colleagues remain largely in place and there’s a long way to go to even begin to consolidate the revolution. But the break with the past is good, the rest we know will take blood, resolve and time…

Of course, the regime has been pushed to get this far, almost week by week, and that will go on until real change is achieved. Change only ever happens like this. When someone tells you that shouting, anger, protest, rebellion even defensive or strategic acts of violence never gets anyone anywhere, as autocrats large and small always waste their breath saying, well; laugh in their faces and press on…

I’m sure Fruit Store regulars know from your own experience that tired, jaded, reactionary, conservative, No-sayers always only ever respond to force -or anyway forcefulness- however boring it is to have to resort to it. In that respect there are continuities between Tahrir’s very expensively acquired and yet only partial freedoms and much less dramatic ones closer to home -and yes, I’m writing as an urbanforester  when I make that point [not that the extrapolation necessarily works the other way around, of course].

Anyway, hooray-hello-Hosni; lets see much more of you and yours in future and work painstakingly through your crimes to ensure that justice is seen to be done and change is institutionalised.

Meanwhile, check the current issue of Bidoun and it’s programme of summery Seminars at the Serpentine here.

nb, visual art noticeboard [alternatives to friezing…]

Dirk Stewen untitled [bronx monkey II]

Dirk Stewen untitled [Bronx Monkey II] at Maureen Paley

I’ve been enjoying quite a few shows recently which are likely to be blown out of the water by the imminent frieze fair and so with mighty respect to the latter I thought I’d flag them up as alternatives…

Future Movements Jerusalem at Liverpool Biennial [18 Sept-28 Nov 2010] is an essential exhibition of work from and about Palestine. I posted on Raouf Haj Yihya’s Meter Square here, the New Statesman bravely ran a rather muted piece here and my own review will run at Babelmed shortly. Surprise yourself if you can get to it, or wait for it to travel south as I know it is scheduled to do. But be sure to see it.

Otherwise, Liverpool is a far better Biennial than scarce notice of it by lazy old journos suggests; everyone rightly notes the almost painfully compelling acid-Warhol-mashup-vids of Ryan Trecartin’s but there’s much else, including NS Harsha’s very nice installation [right] at 52 Renshaw Street and not least at Tate Liverpool -where a dubiously conceived but actually nicely put together show called The Sculpture of Language by Carol Anne Duffy exhibits some great and rarely aired works.

Dirk Stewen at Maureen Paley [08 October — 14 November 2010] is the most winning new work in town for me. If you do make it to the frieze jamboree then add this show to your bottom-line schedule otherwise you’ll have failed yourself and London. If you’re not friezing it then take advantage and spend some time in a show spread over two floors, beautifully arranged/hung works combining utopian gesture with extraordinary concentration, tentativeness and beauty. The work seems hardly there at all and yet surprises/delights with a precision that makes for indelibility. It’s Stewen’s first show in London, I’d never seen the work before and this exhibition made me happy to be alive; don’t miss it! Continue reading “nb, visual art noticeboard [alternatives to friezing…]”

aisha khalid & imran qureshi @ corvi-mora to 6th march only

Pattern to Follow 2009 [DETAIL] Aisha Khalid

There are two very good reasons for me to return to the work of these exceptionally good artists. Firstly, it is the last week of their exhibition at Corvi-Mora. Secondly, the publication of extremely beautiful artist’s books by Raking Leaves is imminent. Exhibition and publications are best seen together. To do so you’ll have to hurry to the gallery this week [11-6 Tuesday-Saturday], then hold out until the publication date of 30th March.

AK is showing four large new paintings which mark a stylistic development on previous work, showcased in a retrospective at the surprisingly capacious Pumphouse Gallery in 2008. IQ is showing six small paintings from his Moderate Enlightenment series; complex portraits of his wife, self, gallerist and studio assistant. In truth it’s a frustratingly small selection, given that both artists deserve the attention that a gallery like the Serpentine can give their work individually. I’m counting the days until it catches up, but quietly dreading some kind of ‘Pakistani Byway’ confection instead.

AK’s new works render beautiful abysses into which swirl complexly patterned stars and squares of gold leaf. There is an all-consuming joy and abysmal dread in them, they are cosmological and catastrophic, thresholds and black holes. Her work has previously excelled with ambiguities of perceptual, personal and architectural space, explored realms of looking and being seen -with all the import both contain in our world of phenomenal/ogical ignorance- and return again and again to the [illustrated] book, often literally with exquisitely rendered lined pages from school books.

Along with a kind of undeclared Islamic minimalism in the work is a politics that has grown ever sharper. From problematising notions of the gaze, in which veiled women become what you want to see, her work has reached a stage where the pretty decorative ‘holes’ created in and by patterned, pulled together edges of fabrics, resemble bloody wounds in bodies with all-too real War on Terror referents. See the work made for the Queen’s Palace in the Bagh-e Babur, Kabul last year here and here.

These newest works are called Pattern to Follow and embody a distinct break. It is as if she can’t bear to look any more, has turned her eyes pleadingly towards an infinite universe or the embrace of god, her hands to the making of open questions. What has previously been indirect has turned full circle so that her most abstract even decorative works, I can’t help feeling, are most revealing of their actual context [WoT’s totalised global violence]. Elegant, visually compelling, geometrically abstract, non-declamatory, yet invested with passionate appeals to some form of justice beyond reach.

The Artist’s Wife & The Gallerist 2009 [DETAIL] Imran Qureshi

IQ’s works are from the ongoing series Moderate Enlightenment. Here he locates western representational portraits within familiarly patterned floral landscapes or more abstract spaces. Some of these highly refined images are then framed within a series of lined boxes which reframe and link with abstract shapes floating like blind spots from the sun to left or right.

These six make an unlikely introduction to his work and are not the strongest argument for its profound innovations. However, they are fascinating to linger with and contain many of the visual and other elements that characterise his wider work. There are hip young things standing in classical landscapes; one male figure stands at an uncomfortable angle to the viewer, casting an unusual shadow on the foreshortened wall behind him.

IQ’s self portrait is a head in profile within a tilting oval, surrounded by a wide mount of gold leaf. The head is naturalistic but doesn’t actually resemble the better looking artist. Every hair on his head seems to have been rendered with the miniaturists famously fine brushes and the flies swarming before him evoke the heated atmosphere in which the work was made. IQ’s trademark leaf-bouquets [reappropriated from Kangra paintings and made to symbolise love] loom beside his wife and gallerist -the latter’s woollen jumper displaying furry licks.

These paintings of IQ’s contain love ‘poems’, perhaps ghazals but in any case they represent a relatively benign world compared to his wife AK’s evident [though still always open, ambiguous, ambivalent] concern or anyway, the seriousness of her new work. There is a curious dialogue going on here and I like the workshop feel of them showing together, something explored to its limits with an earlier project called Kharkhana [a very fine catalogue is available here]. However, there’s no sense in which either ‘needs’ the other and as an exhibition it would compliment the work of both to show more work separately.