“An invitation to change the identity of distance between a painting and the eye.” South Passage | 2008. Art in ancient civilisations has ever been an integral part of society, culture and religion. From earliest times, architecture and ritual activity wove an inter-play of symbol and form, of image and belief. As such, the viewer and/or participant partake of the initial spirit of creation and summons up existing underlying feeling and connections within his/her own mind and consciousness. Of the new body of works by Nasr herewith exhibited. The drawings are insightful in to his use and re-use of the picture plane, and his arrangement of characteristic elements and vocabulary. They constitute a vital component of his creative process and handling of mediums.
Every painting has its own life, its own world like an individual; the colours speak to me and they appear with different forms, they bring other elements to tell a story which then evolves into a painting! Colours have their own characteristics, landscapes and culture.
One understands their history and symbols better when one knows their origin and according to their geographical situation and nature. Nasr’s pieces in India ink suggest an extension of a previous calligraphic lexicon; vibrant in their movement, almost lyric and freed from his attributed spatial configurations.
As the themes and focus of artistic creation move from the immediately tangible to abstractions of metaphysics and faith, the images and narratives deployed are transfigured, interpreted, conjured and rendered supra-natural and trans-mographic. At once, devotion, philosophy and the incarnate materialise as one. Particular societal and religious contexts dictate to what point and for how long such iconography is relevant and evocative. Nevertheless, stylistics revolves about a seemingly unstructured and chaotic vortex. To what extent the art lives is largely a measure of the philosophical/emotional attitude’s attraction and power.
An inordinate portion of cultural material never concentrated purely on the external, the mere physical manifestation. Abstraction and ideals, as well as conjured stylistics enabled the fusion of many diverse cultural influences and grammar throughout the course of invasions and movements of people.
In Abstraction and Empathy: a Contribution to the Psychology of Style (London, 1953, p. 16), Wilhelm Worringer wrote: “tormented by the entangled inter-relationship and flux of the phenomena of the outer world, such peoples were dominated by an immense need for tranquillity.
The happiness they sought from art did not consist in the possibility of projecting themselves into the things of the outer world, of enjoying themselves in them, but in the possibility of taking the individual thing of the external world out of its arbitrariness and seeming fortuitousness, of externalizing it by approximation to abstract forms and, in this manner, of finding a point of tranquillity and a refuge from appearances.
Their most powerful urge was, so to speak, to wrest the object of the external world out of its natural context, out of the unending flux of being to purify it of all its dependence on life, i.e. of everything about it that was arbitrary, to render it necessary and irrefragable, to appropriate it to its absolute value”. Nasr wrote of his work that the “South Passage collection is not an illustration or a cause spread over 30 paintings, neither it’s a poem or a story which is limited to a beginning and an end. It’s an invitation to celebrate our presence.” His brush incarnates energy, drawing inspiration from all facets of nature, multifarious traditions (Arabic, Islamic, Metaphysical, Sufi, the Poetic and Sculptural), and the irrefutable continuum of life. Whether on canvas or sculptures, his strokes of calligraphic abstraction and poetry commingle with allegorical and quotidian symbols. Images of feet in particular appear as the ‘point of contact’, portraits in profile, eyes, jewellery, architectonic elements, spheres and orbs. While at work (drawing, painting and sculpting), the body remains the majority of the time apart. Upon occasion, at some point, it does become one with the mind. Then, the artist feels ecstatic and on a higher level of expressive moments in the creative process. Soon thereafter, after the passage of fractions of seconds of ecstasy, there remains and rests within a deeper connection which has a lasting effect. As an artist, one must work with materials. Materialistic thought and life are thus imbued with a more evolved sensibility. One ever seeks to renew, rediscover, and uncover this energy and ultimate insight. Through its primitive and primeval elements, its recollections of mythology, depictions of real and unreal, move ever from the minute to the majestic. As the import of art essentially as a means of human expression, of reaching towards a larger contextual dimension, thus it reaches outward per the artist as a vehicle to communicate and affect the unidentified viewer.
At times, facets of human portraiture appear on the canvases, the human as an inherent element of the cosmos, “from form to formlessness” (think of the renowned Indian artist/poet Rabindranath Tagore), in an almost obeisance state to nature. Nasr, as apparent in more recent works such as 'The Three Graces' and 'The Poet of Philippopolis' opens the senses in order to feel the energy. Classical and yet familiar, there are lines and bodies of colour and minutely detailed colour planes.
From such subtler fecund works like masks of matter, one’s eye moves to those with dramatic rushing of spontaneous reverie, outpouring as in verse. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his inspiring tome, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, points out that creativity cannot be understood by looking only at the people who appear to make it happen. He reaffirms the role of the Viewer -creative ideas need a receptive audience to record and implement them.
He proceeds to note that creativity results from the interaction of a system consisting of three elements: a culture that contains symbolic rules, a person who brings novelty into the symbolic domain, and a field of experts who recognize and validate the innovation. Such concurring confirms that creativity is the process by which a symbolic domain in the culture is changed. Ponderances on the Nature of Art In his seminal essay “The Origin of the Work of Art” (Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, 2nd edition, Universal-Bibliothek Nr. 8446/47. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1960), the German philosopher Martin Heidegger espouses his thinking about the nature of art and that of human beings. This treatise was originally presented as a lecture in November 1935 to the Kunstwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft in Freiburg. Subsequently, it was published in Poetry, Language, Thought (an English language volume translated and compiled by Albert Hofstadter with Heidegger’s consent, published in 1975 by Harper & Row).
“Yes is the work ever in itself accessible? To gain access to the work it would be necessary to remove it from all relations to something other than itself, in order to let it stand on its own for itself alone. “
He then continues by writing, “Well then the works themselves stand and hang in collections and exhibitions. But are they here in themselves as the works they themselves are, or are they not rather here as objects of the art industry? Works are made available for public and private art appreciation. Official agencies assume the care and maintenance of works. Connoisseurs and critics busy themselves with them. Art dealers supply the market. Art-historical study makes the works the objects of a science. Yet in all this busy activity do we encounter the work itself?” The symbol connoted the higher significance of the narrative, as intricately woven or simplistic as it could be in more native art. Symbols also have times of strength and weakness. At their apex, they morph into shades colouring all of quotidian existence, until albeit colloquialisms, at which point they are too specific or general, having lost any complexity or connection to their original genesis. In this intuitive vision and spiritual awareness, one lives in the timeless present. Vision transcends thought, the illusion of time overcome by the experience of space and action within the present. Yet, complete delineation in art falls short of the artistic ideal, and one must accept evocation.
As it is finally left to the viewer to utilize his/her own powers of imagination to carry the mere flat representation to other psychological levels. Cultural character is reflected through the forms and imagery it projects. Andre Malraux wrote: “A culture survives – or revives – not because of what it actually was, it interests us in virtue of the notion of man that it discloses or the values it transmits.
No doubt these values undergo a metamorphosis in the process of transmission…. The consummation of each epoch discloses to us that part of man on whom it set most store”. (The Voices of Silence, London, 1954, p.31)
Thus, the importance of the responsiveness of the participant, and viewer, no matter actual physical or emotional distance from the act of creativity at hand. Despite seemingly realistic or concrete shared experiences in life, most emotions or images are empathetically conveyed only through evocation. Art renders such impasses explorable, perhaps, even shareable, by interplay of familiar portrayals and visual re-arrangements or groupings – blending of material and palette.
Imagination interweaves symbols, uncovering lost and active layers, even those with culture specific meaning. As the Swiss psycho-analyst C.C. Jung wrote and noted throughout his work on dreams, there exist universal symbols, which have anchored themselves in truly disparate cultural nexuses across time and the world.
Nasr’s art reflects a rooted-ness, a connection with past imagery of traditional aesthetics, while being creative with a global forum. Yet it is reality of timelessness, of an unbroken thread woven through subtle layers of mind, body, spirit and colour which brings museums to life and sustains their relevance both to society and to the lives of individuals.
They inspire the imagination, never lacking in tools or metaphors. Dialogue pauses only to start anew with both permanent and temporary projects, with educational and cultural programmes, and certainly with publications. The ontological reigns here.
Naum Gabo, the constructivist artist, upheld embrace of an alternative, albeit personal world of the universe-a parallel universe – a parallel universe of a sort. Furthermore, his paradigm promulgated its supreme reality. “I maintain that knowledge is nothing but a construct of ours and that what we discover with our knowledge is not something outside us.
We only know what we do, what we make, what we construct; are realities. I call them realities. There is no reality beyond this reality (such images) except when in our creative process we change we change the image, then we have created new realities.” (Letter to Herbert Read, Philosophy of Modern Art, London, 1951, p. 94) Nasr Warour’s latest creations explore a newly embraced iconic and pictorial freedom, almost a blank verse, transcendental approach to classical structure and modernist expression.
Art historian (East Asian art)