VOLTA NY 14: Simeen Farhat’s ‘Alice’ and the language puzzles

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Simeen Farhat, “She Looses her Temper”, 14 x 16 x 5 inches. Cast and pigmented resin & acrylic rods, 2014.

Pakistani-born, Dallas-based artist Simeen Farhat has taken a classic novel ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ as a starting point for her new installation for VOLTA NY 2014 edition, which ran from March 6-9 in Soho. VOLTA is called as ‘invitational solo project fair for contemporary art’, so Farhat’s solo exhibition was equally presented by a gallery who is already endorsed multiple times by the fair. Her exhibition, curated by Christine Pfister of Pentimenti Gallery from Philadelphia, emphasizes a materiality of the language puzzles. The artist is known for creating poetic works with dimensionality and message, that come with the use of different languages and ways of communicating in our cultural encounters. This time, her colorful and even candy-colored sculptures and installation speak about the problematic nature of cross-cultural communication, showing the emotions and frustrations that are attached to the rules of using our languages. Farhat’s previous works have drawn from such languages as Farsi (RUMI poetry) and Urdu. Text used around the ”Alice” installation is English.

The immediate surface of the words come across as part of the form, and the text intermingles with the sculptural transparency. This already creates puzzles as we see only fragments of language, which, when viewed from a distance, create aesthetical form. When we step closer to the sculptures, the objects invite us to perceive them from different angles. Pink and black cast resin wall sculpture “She Looses her Temper”, is an example of Farhat’s sculptures that emphasizes the multiplicity of the form when viewed from various positions. As it comes to the emotional statements of texts, the ”pointiness” of words structure dynamic messages.

Philosophy is important element in Farhat’s artist statement:

“Words – written or spoken, understood or misunderstood, poetic or prosaic, curvilinear or rectilinear, are what motivate me to create my visual narrative. I am fascinated by how, through language, we understand a great deal about ourselves and surroundings, and how ideas: simple, complex and abstract, are conveyed and understood using symbols.” (Simeen Farhat)

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Simeen Farhat, “She Looses her Temper”, 2014
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Simeen Farhat puzzles with languages, Pentimenti Gallery, VOLTA NY2014.

”Alice’s tears” create undoubtely the center of Simeen Farhat’s VOLTA installation. The blue teardrops in various sizes seem to flow effortlessly from the ceiling, pouring down from Alice’s eyes when she has grown tall.  The viewer can imagine Alice, by experiencing the shades of blue in the sculptures, some of them so light-colored that they are almost invisible towards the white backdrop, some darker. The shapes also vary from softer and rounder to sharper ones, and they accumulate and reshape closer to the ground. The tears are seen differently depending on the lighting conditions; the shadows are creating part of the narrative too. Farhat has sometimes included textiles into her previous installations to reference the (female) ‘body’. For Alice, the handcrafted cast resin has worked miracles. Different blue shapes and sizes embody the space leaving room for imagination and story.

Simeen Farhat has exhibited in the United States and internationally, including Pakistan, London, the UAE, India, Finland and Germany. Her collaboration with Pentimenti Gallery will continue through 2014, and her solo exhibition will open in Philadelphia later this year.

for more information visit: www.pentimenti.com

VOLTA edition #2 Derrick Velasquez

Artist Derrick Velasquez was presented at VOLTA by Philadelphia-based pentimenti Gallery. His marine vinyl and plywood wall pieces are sculptures, if you like, and at the same time they possess some qualities that are decorative, or design. Yet, this is not entirely summing up what he is doing with the ingredients. The art made by Derrick Velasquez is very physical. The layers of meaning, which come to your mind begins with words, like arts and crafts, ancient, poetics, mechanics, physics, installation, historical play with objects, and the body-art. He says in VOLTA NY 2013 introduction to his work, that his attempt is to ‘construct a language of structure that questions our physical and psychological interactions with industrially manufactured materials that exits in the spaces we inhabit’. Velasquez works with plywood to investigate the gravity or tension on the wood together with the materials of marine vinyl, acrylic and hardwoods. He adds into these the human body dimension. When the body is part of the picture; questions, how the wood can be stretched to measure our physicality, and what is a relationship between the space, the materials used and the body, are relevant. All these questions are also important in design. While his art looks very organic and natural, it also comprises qualities of forced, structured and compressed; so the tension is created.

The Untitled (draped body) wall pieces series has come out from a meditation process, in which Velasquez discovered  his direct connection and interaction with the large sheets of vinyl. In order to cut the sheets of material, he carried the textile material over his own body that became a table and cutting surface for the work. He tried to think and imagine the visuality of the vinyl draping over his body, when he could not see what it would actually look like from the outside. Overall, his intention has been to take away the ‘consumer use’  of the materials, and let his body create the form for the objects. So this way, the image and spatialization of the form is a continuation of his body, it is an embodiment of the craft, and the weight of his own body, which has shaped and layered the form.

For his series Untitled, which was on display at VOLTA, Delasquez did meticulous hand cutting of individual strips of marine vinyl placing and accumulating them onto precut wooden forms.

Derrick Velasquez, Untitled 63, 36 x 24 x 1.5 inches, Marine vinyl, oak, 2013. Courtesy of Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA.

As a bookbinder the vinyl is a material I used as covers for hand bound soft cover journals. The form and process of the formalized wall pieces came from an every day practice of precutting enclosure straps for the journals and placing them on a screw on the wall. As these began to accumulate, I realized I was denying the intended surface of the vinyl and exposing the innards of the synthetic fabric. This creates a new flat surface that lacks the continuity of a sheet of fabric and becomes a construction of sophisticated and subtle color harmonies by way of hundreds of hand cut and layered strips.  As number of the vinyl strips grows, the relationship of the visual structure slowly shifts – the vinyl no longer conforms to the shape of the wood form, but instead rounds out to a gentle curve.

 

Untitled (draped structure 2) is a piece inspired by images I’ve taken while driving over bridges. By taking the language of structure that exists within a bridge, I’m referencing the mechanical aspects engineering and physics of a form that has a different set of parameters than the human body.  By draping the vinyl over this invented structure, I aim for an indirect narrative and association between edifice and drapery.  Ideas of gravity, force, tension and repose come to mind as one might observe and think about the relationship between buildings or bridges and the colors placed on them. (Derrick Velasquez, 2013)

 

(See also his installation art (Knitting movie) on his website here. Derrick Velasquez was born in Lodi, California, He currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He received his MA of Fine Arts  from The Ohio State University in 2008, and his BA of Studio Arts and Art History degrees from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004.)