16. Januar – 20. Februar 2016
On one hand, the term miscellaneous refers to a heterogeneity of things and themes, while on the other hand, its noun form is akin to the German ‚Verschiedenes‘, ‚Sonstiges‘ or ‚Diverses‘, covering everything that doesn‘t quite fit into the pre-established categories. Both of these aspects – an irreducible diversity of things and an indeterminacy of categorical memberships – are recurring themes in the conversation surrounding Shila Khatami‘s work. Descriptions like ‚ambiguous‘ which attest to a certain „acting in between“ (Bitterli 2015, S. 88) and „the shimmer of multiple, competing orders“ (Schlaegel 2015, S. 60) bear witness to the artistic principle by which Khatami often incorporates opposed properties and meanings into her work. For her, however, it‘s not just about creating oppositional juxtapositions for their own sake. Rather it‘s the discrepancy between the rigid and regular patterning of perforated MDF and metal plates, brittle materials and simple geometric forms on one hand and an expressive application of paint with almost neon narratives and colors, or suggestively lyrical titles on the other hand that creates an exciting tension, giving the viewer occasion to take a second look. Nonetheless, it is in the simultaneity of heterogenous pictorial elements and traditions that we can ultimately recognize Khatami‘s interest in how both art historical and pop-cultural forms are connoted as well as in how their forms and meanings transform over time with respect to diverse contexts of reception or, in other words, how forms disseminate and transform themselves.
In the current exhibition, Khatami makes the thought and work processes behind her individual works explicit. Here the circle, which recurs throughout her oeuvre in the form of holes and points, is the primary motif through which the artist exposes the process of individual pictorial invention and the deferral of meaning. The circular flecks of luminescent yellow in California (2008) conjure a coastal landscape bathed in the light of the setting sun. The circular form is halved and repeated through semicircles in the following works, eventually developing into other images of the setting sun. Her studies on fine graph paper demonstrate how Khatami experiments with proportion and color sequences. Her accurate lines, painstakingly drawn with a ruler and compass, remain clearly visible beneath the rough brush strokes of her color fields. Here mathematical calculation confronts personal gesture, though the artist neither confines herself to the former nor loses herself in the latter. The colors move through combinations of yellow, blue, pink and purple, then green and culminate in a palette dominated by red, evoking an image of a crimson twilight (Sonnenuntergang sk I, 2011; Sonnenuntergang sk II, 2011). Nevertheless, Khatami‘s use of color isn‘t primarily naturalistic and, like many of the forms she uses, it can‘t always be understood as representational in any strict sense. Unlike the Constructivists however – whose use of elementary geometric forms Khatami cites along with others as a point of reference for her work – she hardly refuses figurative associations but rather encourages them with her titles and selections of colors. With the awareness that even simple forms like circles, squares and triangles can no longer be read without prejudice, that they are not only art-historically loaded but have also long since been integrated into the vocabulary of advertising and commodity design, Khatami lets the most diverse impressions flow into her work. The stylized representation of a sun printed instead of an ‚O‘ in a logo on a cardboard box can be just as inspiring as the geometric compositions in Malevich‘s or El Lissitsky‘s paintings. Likewise in her series Sun Travels (2014), the sun motif commonly printed on the side of tour buses is varied in various formats and colors, finally reappearing in her large format painting Sunset (2015).
If the idea of radiation is dealt with on a primarily visual level in Sunset, Khatami adds a further level of content to it in Hot Spot (2016). By expanding the sunset‘s arcs of light with a series of semicircles, she turns them back into complete circles which stretch out across the walls and floor. The bright palette of the sun paintings gives way to a black and white color scheme. Through these minimal formal transformations, Khatami manages to reinhabit the circular form and build analogies to other forms in our everyday environment. Though Hot Spot formally relates to her series of sunsets, it also evokes the visual language of signs which designate spaces with public Wi-Fi access. With this in mind, Hot Spot seems not to be a discrete hint but rather a representation of the invisible radio waves which permanently surround us, as echoed in the concentric circles expanding into the room.
The end ‚point‘ of the exhibition is a large ‚X‘. This early painting by Khatami can be seen as an invitation to reevaluate things. The diverse modulations the artist subjected the circular form to could also be reinterpreted for the two crossing lines. Tilted to its side, the X makes a cross which already played a role in her earlier Targets series. X also stands for the straight edge subculture…
‚Miscellaneous‘ may seem like a makeshift solution in some contexts, but for Shila Khatami it constitutes part of an extremely productive artistic program.
Konrad Bitterli, „Ambigu – Shila Khatamis Malerei des konsequenten Dazwischens“, in: Shila Khatami, Straight Edge, hg. v. Autocenter Berlin und Kunstverein Dillingen, Berlin 2015, S. 88-112.
Andreas Schlaegel, „Linien und Löcher“, in: Shila Khatami, Straight Edge, hg. v. Autocenter Berlin und Kunstverein Dillingen, Berlin 2015, S. 58-70.