Allah is a multimedia installation by artist Nasser Al-Salem and the second iteration derived from an earlier work by the artist. The visual manifestation of the word Allah is an abstracted representation in which its letters are stripped down to basic geometric lines and shapes. Nasser explores through a minimalist approach how form and light can imitate an approximate representation of the divine.
The artist radically eschews the conventional and traditionalist aesthetic appeal of a calligraphic form in representing Allah, and creating an immersive and experiential representation.
Light is the main medium in the work presented, alluding to Allah as the source of light. The work pushes beyond its literal readings of its medium to explore our perception of reality.
The work encases two mirrors, one on each side of the room, to blur the boarders between the physical and visual realms, and create an imaginary, infinite world.
The work explores the viewer’s assumptions of space by creating a visual and physical dissonance.
“These works are linked to the idea that every ‘culture’ is based on a ‘primary event’ that serves as a starting point; a simple situation that, nonetheless, generates patterns of thought, sensitivity, myths, etc.
As ‘chromatic notions’ had not been modified in centuries, I began to consider that a new ‘support’ was needed; colouring space instead of form would allow the viewer to see what I wanted to demonstrate. Chromosaturation is an artificial habitat formed by three colour chambers, one red, another green and a third blue. On entering, the spectator is immersed in a ‘completely monochrome’ reality.
Since the retina usually perceives a wide range of colours simultaneously, experiencing these monochromatic situations causes disturbances.
This activates and awakens notions of colour in the viewer, who becomes
aware of colour’s material and physical existence. Colour becomes a situation happening in space, without the help of form, or even a support, and free of cultural conventions.”
Carlos Cruz-Diez, Paris 1965
Exhibition “O(s) cinético(s)”, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, Brazil, 2017
© Adagp, Paris 2018
© Photo: Atelier Cruz-Diez Paris
Irwin’s Aces and Eights is an experiment with the perceptual qualities of light, playing with rhythm, texture, densities, temperature, and chromatic relationships. The light tube sculptures often pass through different states, including the off position, dramatically altering the compositions, as well as the mood and atmosphere of the surrounding environment. With each shift, chromatic and tonal relationships change, temperatures move from warm to cool, and the quality of light in the room transforms. One light tube reflects upon another, and the spaces between the light tubes allow two adjacent colors to refract, producing a vast range of hues. The effect of this work then plays between the solid state of its existence to the phenomenological properties Irwin sets out to explore.
A Boy Stands on the flat, dusty rooftop of his family’s traditional house in the south west corner of Saudi Arabia. With all his reach he lifts a battered TV antenna up to the evening sky. He moves it slowly across the mountainous horizon, in search of a signal from beyond the nearby border with Yemen, or across the Red Sea towards Sudan. He is searching, like so many of his generation in Saudi, for ideas, for music, for poetry – for a glimpse of a different kind of life.
His father and brothers shout up from the majlis (sitting room) below, as music fills the house and dancing figures appear on a TV screen, filling the evening air with voices from another world. “This story says a lot about my life and my art” Ahmed tells me, as he installs a bright, white neon antenna into the ceiling of a warehouse gallery in Berlin. “I catch art from the story of my life,” he continues. “I don’t know any other way.”
Ahmed Mater is the boy with the antenna; a young explorer in search of contact with the outside world, reaching out to communicate across the borders that surround him. It is this spirit of creative exploration and curiosity that defines Ahmed’s journey as an artist.
Florenz-Bagdad is key to understanding the formal dialogue in this case and is located in between the narratives within the space. The work was developed through (and takes its title from) Hans Belting’s book Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science. Belting looks at the meaning of perspective in each of these cities as the concept was developed and traces the development of the visual strategy in Western art history to the intellectual and mathematic principles developed in Baghdad by Islamic scientists. The term perspective meant very different things in each culture, he argues, but they are essentially based on the same geometric concepts. They differ in the relationship to the image and this is where Nasseri intervenes and navigates his practice through this conflicting space.
Perspective in the art historical sense at the simplest is using the mathematics of the eye to project on a flat surface an illusion of space that the eye reads as a three dimensional space/experience. It’s tied to conversations about the window and the self, the gaze. The use of perspective in this form anticipates and requires a viewer to align themselves with the world and view it from a particular angle and height so that it more closely mimics the physical world. The goal of capturing reality as close as possible, using specific measurements and calculation based on the geometry of space completely changed the relationship to the image and to art with far reaching cultural consequences. There is lots of literature about perspective as image, the image as inherently false and Belting continues to outline these conversations.
The mathematic and Eastern (as classified by Belting) use of perspective alternatively is focused on the geometries and mechanics of sight. Light is the medium and agent that allows us to identify objects and Arab scientists identified light as rays and the movement of said rays from light sources to the eyes. The emphasis is on the mechanics of this process and through this conception its not possible to make images as they are all created in the mind through the information provided in the light rays rather than reading objects themselves.
The physical experience of Florenz-Baghdad combines these visual approaches but also then adds the -complications of the significance of mirrors and the reference to the Iranian craft of aineh-kari which are essentially the extremes of what Belting is arguing. Mirrors not on imply a viewer but literally are expected to reproduce them. Aineh-kari is a traditional craft and Persian architectural feature that literally is meant to move and reflect light. It’s mostly found in mosques, shrines, and palaces as a show of wealth but also of as a signifier of god. The cuts in aineh-kari are historically quite small, hand cut pieces that are meant to obscure the environment and emphasize the light, they’re also generally put on ceilings and high up on walls rather than being presented directly in front of one’s eyes. They create scattered patterns when directly hit, throwing the light beams throughout a physical space and even when it is used on walls the nature of the craftwork and the variation of the hand fitting places each plane at a different angle that fragments oneself.
The experience of this installation becomes an important tool for looking at the rest of the exhibition. The final effect of Florenz-Bagdad is the use of Alhazen’s optics to disrupt the illusionary perspective plane, but also the inverse as ones position in this imagined space can’t be fully removed because of the scale and presentation of the individual panes. The surrounding environment, what should be read as real to the eye is destabilized, while the other works in the show use the confidence of the gaze and their physical presence to render real what is ultimately fantasy.
Anne Senstad examines the sensorial architecture and philosophies on perception through light, color and sound. Her immersive sculptural light installation ELEMENTS defines space through topologies of vertical light, the phenomenon of color in relation to its nature, a non-objective space of frequencies, structuralities and elements. In dialogue with an enveloping color horizon, the vertical color spectrums create a sensorial materialization of an internal enlightenment inviting the public into the artwork itself as a meditative spatial experience.
In the Wide Glass work Pelée (2014), two overhead spotlights cast direct light onto walls flanking a large horizontally oriented rectangular aperture receded into the wall of a dark viewing space. A convex glass surface fills the cavity of the aperture, which is backlit by a system of computerized LED fixtures that gradually shift between multiple still states of colors and luminous intensities to create a sense of depth.
Although programed with a predetermined durational cycle of two and a half hours, the overhead lights and screen elements subtly perform their choreography as they transition from one polychromatic state to another, resonating with the phenomena of natural light as they fluctuate between colors of dusk and dawn.
Villareal composes his Cloud Drawings on square arrays of LED lights arranged in columns. Each Cloud Drawing has its own sequencing, though the works relate compositionally as a series. Suggesting natural phenomena through abstract patterns of monochromatic light, the Cloud Drawings relate on a smaller scale to the artist’s The Bay Lights (2013), a 1.8 mile-long installation on the western span of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge.iii Villareal is fascinated by the psychology of perception, noting how the levels of brightness in the LEDs manifest in apparent changes in their size.iv Inspired by clouds and celestial imagery as well as sources that include alchemical and cosmographical etchings, Villareal questions the meaning of a “drawing” in the context of his work.v
iii See Andy Jordan, “Lights, Action Come to the Bay Bridge,” Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2013,
iv Leo Villareal, interview with Martin Fox, Brooklyn, New York, March 31, 2017.
The exhibition bases its foundation around Luminism and the relationship that the containment of light has between our environment and our engagement with it.
Renowned artists are showcasing seminal works, each treats light in a unique way allowing the viewer to immerse oneself into the light through variable formations and positioning. These installations of light are put together to exceed their material, thus allowing a flow of transcendent effects on the viewer, to steer and expand the human consciousness.
This experiential and interactive exhibition sets to subvert notions of light and space as we understand them, and the cross overs these may have in playing with our perceptions and psychology. All together are intended to explore the human visual perception, and how both light and color affect our emotions or change the way we feel within a space.
One artist creates a sensorial representation of unlimited possibilities of the imagination and of existence. These representation are created out of chaos—the experience of infinity within us.
While other artists explore color theory and pushes the boundaries of light to divide and redefine space all the while blurring the lines between each hue and indeed our visual perception of it.
Whether the gradual adjustment of color around one room renders it unperceivable, or if one is met with the sheer starkness of color in the next, they all require the reliable rendering of the eye to distinguish the stability of the space and the accuracy of the color of the original environment.
What is experienced depends on their physical positioning within the space, coupled with their own psychological state and visual perception. The ephemeral nature of transitory light shifts the stability within our understanding of 3 dimensional space as we have grown to know it, allowing for a new perception of how we view our surrounding reality to be created.
Participating artists: Ahmed Mater, Anne Senstad, Carlos Cruz-Diez, James Turrell, Leo Villareal, Nasser Al Salem, and Robert Irwin.
This exhibition is in collaboration with Pace Gallery.