Leila Heller Portrait

Art to me is beyond a purely aesthetic appeal or financial value, it is also an immediate feeling and reaction. Since I was a young child, I have been surrounded and inspired by the art that was on the walls of my family home and the creative traditions that have been part of my culture for centuries – mesmerising geometric labyrinth designs, poetic miniature narratives and illuminated spiritual texts, which still inhabit my memories of that long ago era. Memory is one of the most boundless and mysterious states of the human mind that instills in me the sense of infinity and even spirituality. Spirituality, in all its forms, and the sense of infinity that it fosters continues to inspire artists from all over the world. For this curated section, I have chosen works by artists who are in conversation with notions of spirituality and the infinite. Light has been used by countless traditions as a universal symbol of divinity and is also synonymous with infinity.

“I HAVE CHOSEN WORKS BY ARTISTS WHO ARE IN
CONVERSATION WITH NOTIONS OF
SPIRITUALITY AND THE INFINITE”

James Turell’s work not only evokes these notions but is the result of a lifetime of exploration into the qualities and perspectives of light and space.

James Turrell, The Light Inside, 1999. Neon and ambient light, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum commission, gift of Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson. © James Turrell
James Turrell, The Light Inside, 1999. Neon and ambient light, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum commission, gift of Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson. © James Turrell

YZ Kami also explores spirituality in his portraiture and his abstract collage paintings. His series Endless Prayers interweaves scriptures from prayer and poetry into captivating geometric patterns recalling Islamic domes.

Y.Z. Kami, Endless Prayers III, 2006. Mixed media on paper, 106.7 x 75.6 cm, KAMI 2006.0012, © Y.Z. Kami. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever
Y.Z. Kami, Endless Prayers III, 2006. Mixed media on paper, 106.7 x 75.6 cm, KAMI 2006.0012, © Y.Z. Kami. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever

Hadieh Shafie’s paper scroll paintings represent a reinterpretation of the tradition of calligraphic script and design repetition present in Islamic art. The process of creating her multi-dimensional works is comprised of the layering of thousands of strips of hand-painted and rolled paper and results in a deeply meditative journey for both the artist and the viewer.

Hadieh Shafie, 22300 Pages (Telesm Series), 2013. Ink, acrylic and paper with printed and hand written Farsi text Eshgh “Love/Passion”, 121.9 cm diameter. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery
Hadieh Shafie, 22300 Pages (Telesm Series), 2013. Ink, acrylic and paper with printed and hand written Farsi text Eshgh “Love/Passion”, 121.9 cm diameter. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery

Ayad Alkadhi’s works on paper from his Hear My Words series feature calligrams of hands as a visual symbol of prayer and spirituality while seamlessly intertwining Arabic spiritual sayings.In many of the works, a sense of an infinite space is produced in an enclosed and finite environment.

Ayad Alkadhi, Hear My Words, 2013. Mixed media on heavy paper, 94 x 76.2 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery
Ayad Alkadhi, Hear My Words, 2013. Mixed media on heavy paper, 94 x 76.2 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery

Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden, comprised of hundreds of mirrored spheres placed outdoors, is a large-scale installation where viewers see countless reflections of themselves. This piece touches upon the spiritual links that humans have with the earth and, furthermore, with the universe.

Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden, 1966. Installation, Mixed Media, Installation View: Venice Biennial, Italy. Copyright: Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden, 1966. Installation, Mixed Media, Installation View: Venice Biennial, Italy. Copyright: Yayoi Kusama

Steven Naifeh’s inspiration stems from his deep appreciation of Islamic architecture. His Saida works are modular experimentations in which a single simple geometric form is combined to create complex Islamic motifs.

Steven Naifeh, Saida II: White, 1998. Enamel on canvas, 304.8 x 304.8 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery
Steven Naifeh, Saida II: White, 1998. Enamel on canvas, 304.8 x 304.8 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery

Ran Hwang incorporates Buddhist spirituality in all her works. In her Snowfall of Spiders installation, the weaves of the spider webs are symbolic of the complex cyclical nature of life. Ultimately, the works that I chose reflect aspects of traditions of spirituality and infinity through the lens of contemporary critical thought.

Ran Hwang, Snowfall of Spider, 2014. Paper Buttons, beads, pins on Plexiglas, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery
Ran Hwang, Snowfall of Spider, 2014. Paper Buttons, beads, pins on Plexiglas, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery

Dilip Chobisa explores the mysteries of human consciousness through the depiction of solitude: he creates multidimensional framed rooms that are starkly empty and that often play with light and perspective.

Dilip Chobisa, I don’t hide...it’s there A, 2014. Graphite on paper and canvas, acrylic color, mixed media, painted wooden frame and acrylic glass, 91.4 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy of the artist
Dilip Chobisa, I don’t hide…it’s there A, 2014. Graphite on paper and canvas, acrylic color, mixed media, painted wooden frame and acrylic glass, 91.4 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy of the artist

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #28, PAGES 137 – 152 AND LIMITED EDITION #50, PAGES 16 – 22

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