In Shiva Amir-Ansari’s second solo exhibition of paintings, inspiration comes from the idea of the ‘sublime’, especially the earlier, 18th century understanding of the sublime – the sense of a tremendous force, vastness and beauty that elicits awe, fear and veneration.
The paintings hint at the breathtaking and terrifying forces of the natural world. Saturated canvases capture the power of infinite spaces, deep space and the energy of shifting skies. And yet shapes and images are obscure and drawn out gradually. Layers of translucent glazes permit colour beneath to show, creating a comforting, veiled effect. Some artworks capture atmospheric conditions, an eerie mist or the luminous aftermath of a storm. This obscurity not only reminds us of the vastness of the phenomena that are out of our reach, but also, perhaps, hides from us the full extent of the danger.
In preparing for this exhibition Shiva Amir-Ansari has drawn on the ideas of 18th century writer Edmund Burke. According to Burke, the sublime can be found in a raging, turbulent ocean, in that power that can destroy a ship and take hundreds of lives in an instant. Philosopher Kant, also inspired by Burke’s writing, followed with the idea of the sublime as an unsettling of the mind, a mixing of pleasure with pain caused by that with is “absolutely great” in nature, and which generates awe.
Forms have been distilled from the observance of natural phenomena and, in painting these works in an outdoor setting, the weather has in turn worked upon the paintings. The markings, cracks, and fissures that are caused by the effects of weathering are played out formally. The effects of weathering for instance are captured by using the force of the wind blowing across the surface of the canvas to generate patterns and ripples. The blemishes and marks caused by the process of working outdoors are integral to the work.
Shiva Amir-Ansari is a Perth-based architect and painter. Shiva’s first solo exhibition was at the Moores Gallery in August 2005.
Venue: The Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery, 46 Henry St Fremantle
Exhibition: 22 – 30 November 2008, 10 – 5pm daily