(Un)conscious: A series of small serendipities

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde is pleased to present (Un)conscious: A series of small serendipities, a group exhibition in which five artists Abdelkader Benchamma, Vikram Divecha, Mohammed Kazem, Ahmad Amin Nazar and Hassan Sharif apprehend the irreconcilable dichotomy of existence encompassing the separation between the spirit and the body, essence and appearance. Yet the artists allow themselves to evolve in a ‘third’ reality that challenges the common idea of mutual exclusiveness of chance and determinism. The fissures that reveal the underlying abyss unveil a place that contains the time of becoming, and the manifestation of a continuum. Also a metaphysical space, these interstices allude to the most authentic form of life, the one of the ‘unconscious’ mind. Continuously seeping through reality, this unavoidable drive that inhabits us as a slid, a gap, a fold, a knot, or a swirl, constantly pulsates, comes and goes, opens and closes. The parenthesised prefix in the title of the exhibition in fact underlines the difficult negotiations between internal and external engagements as well as the potentiality of chance as artistic modus operandi. Kazem attempts to convert invisible ideas into shape and visualise otherwise transient phenomena and abstract notions. Known for his scratch paintings that represent sound, his newly realised works of graphite and ink lines follow a trajectory of chance that allows a subterranean light to emanate from the depths of the surface. Luminous orange, muted tones of lilac, pale blue and grey, and pinkish white hues emerge from a white background, presenting a light and airy approach to colour. They not only relate to nature, but also reflect invisible events through their transparency. Meanwhile, a sense of disorientation and suspension hovers over Benchamma’s new works that investigate the archetypal image of a cave in an attempt to depict a transcendental world of ideas and forms. From drawings on paper to immersive mural installations, Benchamma has developed a rigorous grammar of the organic matter. Sense of time and space are lost in Cave (2017) drawings, where minuscule figures wander in mysterious passageway dominated by deep strata of minerals. The cave is a transformative space where a new world begins; it symbolise a search for the meaning of life. Is the exit of cave the projection of its own shadow that would mislead people to mistake appearance for reality? Or is it a gateway to another level of a world of creation? Sharif on the other hand, replaces the use of paintbrush to draw with rope, which is sometimes dipped into colourful acrylic paint or wrapped around fabric, electrical cable and copper wire. In doing so, his Objects become abstract paintings. Based on the material and technique used, the pieces eventually become the work of two pair of hands, one is that of Hassan’s alter ego of a female artist, which he referred to as ‘Sharifa Hassan’ and the other being the artist himself. “I resorted to the idea of redundant repetition in producing art, where I would continuously engage myself in boring, recurring, endless activities to make it the underlying purpose of my practice,” says the artist. Most of Sharif’s ‘weaving’ works would be the work of his female heteronym, lavishly sensual and pleasurable to look at. In Divecha’s formal study of lines, short intervals of carefully hand drawn lines followed by precisely cut paper articulates the composition to reveal a void that allows us to peak into the mystery within. The artist does not intend to evoke any feelings or emotion, but rather remains anchored in his process. Experimenting and creating parallel lines in this manner highlights Divecha’s approach to chance operations and relinquish the artistic agency to let matter express itself. Keeping the gaps slightly ajar and venturing as closely to its vertiginous edge, the work enables emotions from the unconscious to seep through the conscious self. As one of Iran’s most pronounced draughtsmen, Amin Nazar draws inspiration from music and poetry to examine the proximity of ephemerality and contradiction. In the four-panel works on paper, particularly stimulated by Syrian writer Sanam Al Ghaman’s poem Dance with Owls, calligraphic script reveals a descending trajectory that is imposed by the force of gravity to challenge the formal style of calligraphic abstraction, while facial features such as eyes, moustache, mouth and hair emerge through the confident interlacing of strokes and lines. The unconsciousness essentially deals with repetition as witnessed in the singular production of the works of five artists gathered in this exhibition: it is from the repetition of gestures, forms, techniques and materials that the proliferation of these artworks derives from. The artists rely on a deceptively simple visual element – the line – at the heart of their creation through laborious, repetitive and formal attempts. In works by Sharif, Kazem and Divecha, the form emerges from itself and the artists neither resist nor fully command the outcome. In Amin Nazar and Benchamma’s works on paper however, abstraction is pinched with figurative elements, as if the work is a mere research material, allowing the viewer to see beyond than just the surface.