Life in a Breath

Iranian visual artist Shirazeh Hoshiary's first show in India resonates with universal themes.

After graduating from the Chelsea School of Art, London alongside a generation of artists such as Anish Kapoor and Richard Deacon, Iranian artist Shirazeh Hoshiary started out as a sculptor. Over the years, as her artistic concerns deepened, the need for a multifaceted visual language pushed her to other art forms, such as painting and animation. Her universal themes have an uncanny way of capturing the intangible which goes beyond three dimensional sculptures to paintings and films. In her show, titled "Breath"at Mumbai's Jhaveri Contemporary, on till March 23, which is also her first in India, Hoshiary presents a video installation and a suite of paintings. "I like to make a film when I want something more ethereal to be captured. Also, each form can heighten a certain facet of the theme," she says.

In this show, Hoshiary tries to give form to the act of breathing. This makes the works understandably abstract, especially in the suite of paintings titled "Presence". But she gives it a context in her film, a four-walled video installation custom-fit into the gallery's specially-carved-out space. "Breath" choreographs the evocative chants of Islam, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish prayers to the transcendental beauty of the act of breathing, visually represented in its act of expansion and contraction. "There is a difference in the way each of these cultures make use of breath inspite of the fundamental universality, and there is a beauty in that," she says.

Her work is influenced by timeless and ancient artistic traditions, such as Persian poetry and Chinese paintings. She inscribes layers of Arabic text and takes it beyond comprehension. They celebrate the energy that flows from the words rather than their meanings. This is a recurring theme in many of her works. "I feel words stop you from experiencing, for me they have always been more about the pulse and energy than their meaning and form," says the 58-year-old artist, who had left Iran for London in 1973 to pursue art education.

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