On color and frames: ‘Polychromatic’ at Galerie Daniel Raphael


The act of conservation has the potential to inspire bold movements towards community in various forms – social, creative and economic, all the more in the name of fundamental aspects of the human condition in concert with people otherwise separated by the nationality, physiology or any number of perceived differences. During her stay in Istanbul, curator Tima Jam devoted her work to seeing contemporary art from Iran and Turkey under the same umbrella of visions, their dialectics merging. Now in London, she is broadening her insightful understanding to include a broader representation of the internationalist art world.

The artists gathered for “Polychromatic” are from Turkey, Iran, Nigeria and Mexico, and their works are as diverse as their respective nationalities. The exhibition is currently online via a virtual tour under the auspices of the Daniel Raphael Gallery in London, which, by collaborating with Tima Jam, has developed its voice as a unique curatorial platform on which to perform acts of solidarity. A case could be made to transcend national fashions entirely in the context of the new art, although, particularly in the predominant and proven medium of the UK today, such reflective geopolitical awareness remains pressing.

Mustafa Horosan, untitled, 2020, oil on cardboard, 59 by 98.5 centimeters. (Courtesy of Daniel Raphael Gallery)

In the statement of its curation, “Polychromatic” puts forward a number of concepts concerning questions of identity, a point of crucial administrative interest to the agents and leaders of any modern nation-state in which the lives of individuals is kept away from people. not fully subject to its obligations and rights of citizens, namely foreigners. In response, artists are, as always, at the forefront of change, as role models and leaders, sometimes anti-heroic, in a progressive forum within nation-building, but not nation-building. The fact that ‘Polychromatic’ features artists from outside the UK is a testament to its alignment with Universalist values.

The potential world heritage that creatives are fabricating towards a more inclusive future is linked to prehistory and, while traversing bureaucratic nightmares and the abundant spoils of modernism, preserves a link to sources of shared understanding of the manifold nature of humanity. . The element of color is both a point of pride and shame in societies that have historically benefited from artificial, unscientific and imposed hierarchical orders based on spectral ranges of integumentary pigment. Focusing on artists from Asia, Africa and Latin America, Jam elevates his curatorial practice with discursive urgency.

Towards individuality

Instead of looking away to transcend the prejudices at work in any social construction built around the notion of individualism, art fills the eye to the brim with the light of consciousness. Between the palpable and the visible, colors are effectively bridges, or doors, opening the mind to be able to see patterns of involuntary cognition and, in turn, verify them. The gift of art is that these educational phenomena unfold like an improving tonic, sometimes bitter, in a round of aesthetic pleasure and conceptual curiosity. Instead of visibility, color is the equivalent of metaphor, as applied in literature.

Jam explicitly referred to surrealism and psychoanalysis to define how the works of the artists on display could be viewed, even unconsciously, with a keen eye on their uses of color. Emotions, for example, are expressed not only on the surface, in facial gestures, but are deeply woven into all of personal psychology. Turkish artist Mustafa Horasan’s paintings are dark with bruised skin tones of black, purple and red. His body shapes are grated and semi-transparent, reminiscent of a fantasy world that emerged from the alchemical imagination of Carl Jung and his less inhibited patients.

Milad Mousavi, 'The Artist Has Died', 2021, oil on canvas, 40 by 70 centimeters.  (Courtesy of Daniel Raphael Gallery)

Milad Mousavi, “The artist is dead”, 2021, oil on canvas, 40 by 70 centimeters. (Courtesy of Daniel Raphael Gallery)

There are essentially two series of Horasan’s paintings, dichotomized by their underlying washes. Horasan is not technically virtuoso but inculcates more naivety in those who would appreciate the breadth of his features, the primal outpouring of images, the oversized hands and the childish skulls that he projects as the notion of elementary ideas professed by the German ethnographer Adolf Bastian. Like Mexican artist Horacio Quiroz, Horasan’s works are an alternative to the dominant capitalism of the art world. It is an anti-aesthetic that simultaneously employs a nuanced and layered sensibility for light and movement.

Quiroz and Horasan also relate in their integration of words, while conveying particularly garish, emphatic styles. All of Horasan’s paintings in “Polychromatic” are untitled. One piece, painted in 2020, shows a wolf face, in profile, exhaling a cloud that blows over the onomatopoeia “boom”, while the silhouette of a human figure walks on an oval black circle, “whole”, spelled with two o. The surreality of his paintings is multidimensional, somehow more supernatural and opaque, certainly darker on the spectrum than that of Quiroz, whose techniques are sharper, but no less prone to realism.

Another thought

Quiroz’s oil painting, “Why should our bodies end up on the skin” (2020), highlights language as a portal through which the gaze of humanistic plurality burns. Its bright yellow color palette is shared by the accompanying piece, “Capitalism in the Web of Life” (2020). The two paintings extend the portrait to the point of multiplicity, because it joins two female faces, alive and meditative. The cropped hair on their hooded head is a trendy faded white streaked with blue. Quiroz appears to criticize the viral contiguity of the dominant economic order as youth, grabbed from behind by two polished hands.

Salman Khoshroo, 'Unicolor Pink', 2021, oil on wood panel, 20 x 20 centimeters.  (Courtesy of Daniel Raphael Gallery)

Salman Khoshroo, “Unicolor Pink”, 2021, oil on wood panel, 20 by 20 centimeters. (Courtesy of Daniel Raphael Gallery)

The oil work of Milad Mousavi is perhaps outwardly similar to that of Quiroz and especially Horasan. The young artist born in Tehran paints corresponding themes. “The Artist Has Died” (2021) is one such piece, with a hint of self-portrait, as Mousavi’s unmistakably mustached face is seen throughout his work at “Polychromatic”. His thick foam strangely resembles Salman Khoshroo, also born in Iran in the 1980s, but steeped in New York schools with his upbringing. Khoshroo’s compact oils on wood are sculptures of painting, faces springing from two-dimensionality with new juxtapositions of colors.

A most welcome curatorial innovation enlivening the scope of “Polychromatic” is the inclusion of seven paintings by Nigerian artist Olamide Ogunade Olisco. As in the works of Quiroz, the characters of Olisco look at the seer-lover of art, only with piercing, almost vengeful gazes, of intensity and scrutiny, suspicious and thoughtful. Olisco is masterful in matte black, highlighting the beauty and power of Africans against bright color saturations. An acrylic and charcoal on canvas, “Secret Admirer” (2021) centers on a woman holding a kitten. Her sunglasses are neon, electric, and she, without a smile, is both distant and captivating, always in front of a glowing room of bubbles. The black in the window outside, however, is the darkest.

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