The Aesthetics of Sin
15 April - 19 May 2018
Open - Thursday till Saturday 2-6 p.m.
Maryam Najd - Fear and trembling (2018) - oil on canvas - 81x61cm
There are few recurring battlegrounds of culture like that of the body. (...) Representations of gender, sexuality, femininity and the woman’s body in particular, not just in mass media, but also in art, remain a divisive area between typical dichotomies of ‘free expression’ and ‘censorship’, historically determined and policed through competing paternalisms. (...)
The core of the issue, you might say, is around the understanding of what and where ‘freedom’ is. Something earned? Something imposed? Something universal? Something absent? Something personal? We can see such a thing as the tolerance of an image of a nude occurring, or not, depending on the context. Nudes are of course very much part of the historical Western tradition and its canon. But their presence varies greatly across time and geography. In many other regions and traditions around the world, including various Islamic cultures, the nude is inhibited due to codes of modesty. In fact, depictions of all sentient beings might be inhibited under laws of Aniconism, in favour of calligraphic text and geometry. It thus follows that artistic training in such a context can follow prohibition of image-making with the nude as its subject, often regulated by state or religious forces. What happens when one’s conditions of practice are changed for that of another?
Typically working in series, Maryam Najd has made several new paintings for her exhibition titled The Aesthetics of Sin, which follow in this longstanding historical artistic mode of the human nude. (...) The nude paintings place the depicted individuals on a dark ground. Their bodies have a low luminosity. They are not eroticised bodies per se, but still perhaps susceptible to a sexualised gaze. Layered washes of colour half-veil the nudes, suspending them between sharp visibility and being drawn into the darkness of the void. There is a tension that holds the images; they have a kind of in-between-ness – between figuration and monochrome, between sensuality and restraint. With these paintings, Najd point us towards a grey area, where the typical contentions possess more ambiguity. Perhaps the speculative dimension of art could offer a space of negotiation, rather than one of conflict?
Nav Haq, Senior Curator at M HKA – Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp
(full text available on the website of (re)D. gallery)
Intersection: International Art & Culture
group show in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Beijing
27.05 - 27.08.2018