Green Painting IV, 1985-1986, photographs and acrylic on plywood panels, 175 x 208 cm

Rasheed Araeen
Going East, Again

Rossi & Rossi

February 15–April 4, 2020
February 21, 2020
Rossi & Rossi
3/F Yally Industrial Building
6 Yip Fat Street
Hong Kong

Rossi & Rossi is delighted to present Going East, Again, a solo exhibition of Rasheed Araeen (b. 1935)—one of the foremost avante-garde artists of our time—from February 15 to April 4, 2020. The exhibition will act as a survey for Araeen’s complex practice, exhibiting works from his early portrait drawings to the minimalist sculptures for which he is known.

Trained in Pakistan as a civil engineer, Araeen took up painting and drawing whilst living in Karachi. The strict architectural geometries in the works of his formative years later fused with his early abstract investigations, resulting in what were to become the earliest minimalist sculptures created by any artist living in the United Kingdom.

Araeen has also distinguished himself as a pioneering writer and editor of dissenting and revisionist discourse on art history. Despite being well known for his minimalist geometric sculptures, Araeen’s oeuvre extends to performance, photography and painting. From the 1970s to the 1990s, many of his works challenged Eurocentrism within the British art establishment, thus championing the role of minority artists, especially those of Asian, African and Caribbean descent.

Akin in its composition to a cinematic experience, Christmas Day (1979) draws the audience into the pathos of its subject. The work is derived from a series of photographic self-portraits the artist took on Christmas Day over the course of several years. The image captures him on a lonely winter’s day in London; in the window of an underground train, Araeen’s face—mostly obscured by his camera—is transformed into a blurred reflection.

In the late 1980s, Araeen extended his practice with a series featuring photographs arranged in the shape of a Christian cross and framed by four green background panels alluding to Islam and the prominent colour in the flag of Pakistan. Representing this aspect of Rasheed’s oeuvre is Green Painting IV (1985-1986), which shows a young bull that had been given to the artist’s sister as a wedding gift that is being prepared for sacrifice. Blue strips of Urdu script accompany the animal, which becomes no more than an exotic decorative detail for the Western viewer, as it oscillates between Western and Eastern ideas of sacrifice. Green Painting IV challenges the infrastructure of "otherness" that exists in both the Eastern and Western viewer, ultimately subverting the religions, perspectives, memories and expressions of both cultures.

For financial reasons, most of Araeen’s early structures have only been preserved on paper in the form of drawings. For the present exhibition at Rossi & Rossi the artist realised a set of sculptures based on Cube as Sculpture, a 1966 drawing in the collection of Tate Modern. The 12 cuboid constructions closely resemble Naum Gabo’s Construction on a Line (c. 1935–37), which Gabo used to demonstrate the fundamental constructive principles stemming from his article, "Sculpture: Carving and Construction in Space" (1937). The works of both Gabo and Araeen attempt to seek the nonhierarchical relationships of identical and equal elements.

About the artist
Rasheed Araeen (b. 1935) is a London-based artist, activist, writer, editor and curator. In 1964, he moved to the United Kingdom from Pakistan, where he had initially trained as a civil engineer. Araeen is recognised as the father of minimalist sculpture in 1960s Britain.

Araeen’s work is held in the collections of various public institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA, The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, UAE; Tate Modern, London, UK; M+, Hong Kong; the Arts Council of England; the Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan; the Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru; the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, South Korea

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