“It occurs to me that I am Arabesque. It occurs to me that there is no such thing as the Arabesque,” reads Kamrooz Aram’s exhibition statement.
Perhaps, before visiting the show, it is useful to learn a little about Aram’s biographical information. As an Iranian growing up in the US, people usually assumed that Aram was an Arab so in many ways, he gave himself the title ‘arabesque’ using the suffix –esque, as meaning resembling; so, the term translates to ‘Arab-like’.
However, the term arabesque is used throughout art history to refer the leafy and floral forms that are seen usually on carpets or tiles and they function as a tool to move our eyes around the surface. Aram has often been interested in the ornamental aspects of Islamic culture and how they can offer meaning far beyond the simple aesthetic and so, this particular series, takes all these as a starting point, which are useful to put the paintings into context.
The exhibition shows a series of paintings some of which are bound closely to the logic of the grid, which is another device that Aram continually explores as a decorative function as well as a limiting and delineating frame. Other pieces in the show are painted completely free-form, without any underlying structure, which call to mind a kind of gestural dance – this in itself also having roots in the word arabesque, which is also a position of ballet dance.
The moments of freedom and tension in this group of paintings, gives rise to the tempo that the artist intended. Even the grid becomes both the beginning of the pattern but also expressive. A line can act as a frame but also be part of the composition. It is these dualities that give the show nuance and meaning. What is even more engaging is to see this show in the context of Aram’s part of the Jameel Prize 5 exhibition, where his exploration into geometry and minimalism is magnified.
In Memory of the Arabesque is on view at Green Art Gallery until May 30