Mansourkhani Evokes Magic at SPAG

Althought there were a number of good artists showing at last night’s SPAG opening number 24, Dan Klooster’s straight ahead digital photographs, Ehecati Rivera’s small mixed media streetscenes and, of course, The Gabe, among others, I was overwhelmed by two paintings of Roya Mansourkhani one titled “Shabestan” and the other, rather prosaically, entitled “The Rug”. Mansourkahani is from Iran where she studied biological sciences and here she has received her MFA from UTEP. She has made great use of both sources of information for these paintings which are meant to evoke aspects from her native country, but which can also be appreciated without the slightest knowledge of  original intention.

As I understand it a Shabestan is a structure located within a house or a mosque. It is often underground but it need not be and it usually contains an arch. Roya told me that in the morning when the sun comes up and in the evening with the sun going down  it is often particularly beautiful. Here she evokes the essence of that. She has combined her love of science and architecture. This is a difficult piece to describe because a description cannot do it justice, and, in fact, knowing the original intention is irrelevant to its appreciation. The piece is huge and appears to show some primordial object rising from a swirling mass. It seems at first to be not simply  an object rising from the mists but a kind of first creation rising from a primordial soup-a swirling light of unformed mass. In fact, she has depicted bone cells linked together to stand in for the rising archway in the Shabestan with morning mist behind it. Again she deals with evocation and essence rather than faithful realistic reproduction, and one can become lost in the swirls. She has created depth in the mist not simply through her painting of the clouds but also through the bone arch rising up and back down; the whole a swirl of blue and brown and gold and light in which one can become lost in contemplation.

“The Rug”  is not simply a rug, but an evocation of both the luxurious patterning of a persian carpet and the people who work so long to make them.  A huge painting,  this, again, is an evocation rather than faithful rendering and thereby the more powerful. In deep browns and golds and reds she evokes the knotted patterns without delineating the specific. She has also added pieces of burning firewood across the top. This, she told me is because so many of these beautiful carpets are made by rural women and she wanted to pay tribute to them, and to remind us that these beautifully intricate weavings come from many,  many unnamed people who live in rural villages. Interesting this because it reminded me both of the Pamela Nelson and Barbara Kingery show currently at Adair Margo-both women evoking weavings by women in rural settings-all three producing wildly different results. and of Margarita Cabrera’s vinyl reproductions of commercial products which leave threads hanging out to remind of the women working in the Maquillas.
This painting also uses bone cell to evoke knots and patterns in the carpet, and both of these magnificent paintings contain a power that seems to stem from the almost mythical, from another world-not one which is geographical but much more profound; much more from an inner spiritual world, unformed, raw and almost a time before the beginning and yet one that which lies continuously  just underneath the surface.

And now for something completely different, I cannot really end this without a word about The Gabe, who is here filling a whole room with his work. This is sort of like the final big bang fireworks display just before the end of the show as he is leaving for the Dallas Institute of Art. Looking around at this room filled with women disappointed, but not fatally, in love it seems they are clamoring to have their own graphic novel. Perhaps I think that just because, bad post-modernist critic that I am, I love narrative. In any case they are fun; they show The GABE has tons of talent and I mainly want to wish him the very best of luck .
This show will be up for two weeks and really you should avail yourself the opportunity to take a look, especially at Roya Mansourkhani’s pieces. Oh, and  Mr Lindsay did a great job DJ’ing. Thanks for the CD-David Sokolec


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