“Angels in Combat”, contemporary Islamic art by Afruz Amighi

CONTEMPORARY ART ISLAMIC EXHIBITION

Iranian artist Afruz Amighi recently held an exhibition at the Isabelle van den Eynde Gallery in Dubai this year. Amighi, the inaugural recipient of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) Jameel prize in 2009 for contemporary work inspired by the Islamic traditions of craft and design, continues and expands on her work in this exhibition.

Gallery IVDE Installation view, Afruz Amighi, 'Angels in Combat I', 'Hall Way' and 'Angels in Combat II' (left to right), 2010, Pe-cap and plexiglass, Respectively 251 x 165 cm, 292 x 193 cm and 251 x 165 c. Image taken from http://ivde.net/

Afruz Amighi, Gallery IVDE Installation view of 'Angels in Combat I', 'Hall Way' and 'Angels in Combat II' (left to right), 2010, pe-cap and plexiglass, respectively 251 x 165 cm, 292 x 193 cm and 251 x 165 cm. Image taken from ivde.net.

Titled “Angels in Combat“, the current exhibition consists of intricate hand-cut stencil patterns on large, thin sheets of plastic through which light is projected. This technique casts highly detailed and textural shadows that fall on the walls behind the hangings. Amighi’s use of materials aids her thematic concerns and works alongside her inspiration for the patterns that are drawn from the rich visual history of the Middle East, but also include personal and contemporary references including the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and foreign interventions in the Middle East.

Afruz Amighi,Tent Graphite on paper 96.5 x 127 cm, 2010. Image taken from http://ivde.net/

Afruz Amighi, 'Tent', graphite on paper, 96.5 x 127 cm. Image taken from ivde.net.

The plastic sheeting Amighi uses in her work is the same material handed to refugees for the construction of refugee tents. Her use of the material began in an exploration of mechanisms of entrapment. According to Amighi, “…Nationalism provides comfort and a sense of solace but ultimately it’s a cage,” thus the projected light from her work casts negative shadows that “soften and make a little bit unreal the harshness.” However, it remains ultimately tent wall fabric.

Her current hanging work includes medical symbols in three of the patterned pieces which reference her own realisation of her mortality after recent illness but also describes in geometric relation the role that medieval Islamic science and mathematics played in early European advancement.

Afruz Amighi, 'Rocket Gods', 2010, Aluminum sheet metal and base metal chain Overall installation - variable size 150 x 23 x 23 cm each, Image taken from http://ivde.net/

Afruz Amighi, 'Rocket Gods', 2010, aluminum sheet metal and base metal chain, overall installation - variable size 150 x 23 x 23 cm each. Image taken from ivde.net.

Another body of work, “Rocket Gods” is a series of delicate but beautiful constructions from chain and metal forming the cage-like shapes of rockets. Amighi makes reference to the flourishing weapons industry of the United States during is operations in the Middle East, the “Rocket Gods” that provide American prosperity.

According to Amighi, Islamic art is often viewed as history, beautiful and elaborate, but something that happened in the past. However, contemporary art maintains a dialogue with this history: keeping it alive and present and thus finally recognising and acknowledging it while simultaneously interrupting the monologue of Western art. As quoted by the Isabelle van den Eynde Gallery, her intent is “to disrupt the notion … that the aesthetics of Islamic and Middle Eastern art exist somehow on the pristine plane of decoration.”

Born in Iran in 1974, but now based in New York, Afruz Amighi received her MFA from the University of New York in 2007.

SA/KN/HH

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