Abstracting Parables-A Work Of Translation at The Stedelijk Museum By Shireen Ikramullah Khan

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Abstracting Parables-A Work Of Translation at The Stedelijk Museum By Shireen Ikramullah Khan

‘Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift that speaks.’ —  Simonides of Ceos An audience can often misconstrue abstract

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‘Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift that speaks.’

—  Simonides of Ceos

An audience can often misconstrue abstract art because most of them are looking for something tangible and concrete with which they can identify. It is natural to try to name and make sense of what we experience and perceive in the world, so pure abstract art with its whimsical shapes, colors, and lines can prove challenging. In its essence abstract art does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of visual reality but instead uses shapes, colours and gestural marks to achieve its effect.

From July 1st to October 16th 2022, the international art event “Sonsbeek20→24” (Arnhem, The Netherlands) in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam organised the exhibition ‘Abstracting Parables’ which brings together three artistic positions. Sedje Hémon (1923-2011), Afro-Brazilian painter, poet, playwright, politician and essayist Abdias Nascimento (1914-2011) and Pakistani artist and designer Imran Mir (1950 – 2014). The central themes of the ‘Sonsbeek20→24’ are ‘Force Times Distance – On Labour and its Sonic Ecologies’, which examines relationships and associations created between the self and modern art.

Hémon throughout her career, developed a notable artistic voice both with her paintings and compositions. She described her paintings as music compositions and their abstract forms are to be read as scores in relation to various musical extensions such as duration, pitch and timbre, while fulfilling her theory of the “integration of the arts.” To put this theory in practice she developed a method to generate musical scores directly from her paintings. Various musical parameters (such as duration, pitch and timbre) would be extracted based on the points along the lines and curves of the paintings. This approach resulted in a body of approximately 300 paintings, some of which were later turned into musical scores for internationally acclaimed ensembles.

Mir was a visionary, and his work can be defined at another level; his decision of focusing on the essence of art, through geometry dealing with formal concerns in a complex scheme, offers us another option. Mir’s practice was nonconformist, sophisticated and minimal. He focused on that truth all through his life by his constant commitment and continued engagement with art. His work holds an affinity to abstract expressionism as seen in his imagery of vibrant colour, precision in formation of lines and geometric shapes. His sole focus was on exploring lines, shapes and form with supplemental juxtaposed interests in his sculptures. There is a seemingly brilliant, meticulous pandemonium of his immense canvases which is accurately symbolic of the lens through which he perceived the entire cosmos.

Nascimento’s work confronts the classifications of figuration or perception, as the deities, the human, the geometric structures, the mysticisms, and sanctities he conjures or depicts exist beyond these groupings. His paintings can be seen as a compilation of artistic, philosophical and radical dialogues on Blackness and the endurance and resistance in Blackness.

There are many theoretical ideas behind abstract art, one of them being that art can or should be like music, in that just as music is patterns of sound, art’s effects should be created by pure patterns of form, colour and line. The idea, derived from the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, that the highest form of beauty lies not in the forms of the real world but in geometry, is also used in discussion of abstract art, as is the idea that abstract art, since it does not represent the material world, can be seen to represent the spiritual.

The exhibition is developed in partnership with the Sedje Hémon Foundation, the Imran Mir Art Foundation and Afro-Brazilian Studies and Research Institute (IPEAFRO). The exhibition is a joint partnership between Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Stichting Sonsbeek.

The exhibition is curated by Amal Alhaag and Aude Christel Mgba with support of Zippora Elders, Krista Jantowski and Stedelijk curator Claire van Els, under the artistic direction of Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung for Sonsbeek20->24 and Rein Wolfs for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

All Images are courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Abstracting Parables- 1st July until 16th October 2022.

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