STEVENSON is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by architect and artist Salim Currimjee, his first solo show in the Netherlands. A second part of the exhibition will take place in Port Louis, Mauritius, where Currimjee lives and works.
Spatial constructs in acrylic, Perspex, wood and plywood, Currimjee’s paintings playfully interrogate our experience of space and its representation. He writes:
Visual space is something we invent and construct, and in the Western traditions we are often forgetful that man is central to the experience of three-dimensional space and the perception of space. This oversight is made clear by English language's limited vocabulary for concepts of space - the word 'space' ranges in meanings from describing the distance between people and entities, to three-dimensional space, and even to ideas of outer space and the cosmos. So, with so few choices of words to convey my curiosity around ideas of space, the title of the exhibition is simple: Journeys in Space.
My work as an architect and an artist are extensions of each other – the plans of the buildings resemble my paintings, and my paintings recall the spatial sense of the built world. The two historical traditions of art and architecture, in both the Eastern and Western realms, intertwine in my imagination. I grew up in Mauritius, as a Muslim and a Jain, in a family of Indian descent, and studied architecture in the United States, all of which in different ways brought forth an awareness of more abstract traditions, rather than the figuration and representation that characterise Western art history. Only recently have shadows of humans started appearing in my abstract imagery, perhaps evolving from a question: does space even exist without our experience of it?
In architecture and painting, Western single-point perspective, articulating three-dimensional space from a fixed point, totally conditions our way of seeing. Yet, in the paintings by Mughal artists and Indian artists of that era there was delight in portraying more aspects of buildings and landscape than can be seen from a single line of sight. For them, the ensemble of the image was more significant than the singular view, and this simultaneous adoption of many different angles of architectural vision – some in perspective, some in elevation and others in plan or aerial view – is also the basis of the spatial constructs of my paintings.
Integral to my paintings are interventions that protrude from the surface and disrupt the illusion of a flat visual plane. These attachments are mostly Perspex, in various colours with reflective surfaces, and thin strips of wood that serve as lines and arcs leading the eye around and through the imaginary space. These bits of wood I salvaged from colonial houses and my old family house, so their many layers of paint bring a rich patina and history to the surfaces. The spatial play is then layered with flat geometrical colour planes that configure to offer multiple perspectives, and perhaps to ask how a fourth dimension could be perceived.
The paintings all have plywood as their base, which in construction is mostly used as shuttering. But it is a remarkable material in that it is machine-made yet also conveys the individuality of wood grains, and absorbs and resists paint in an irregular way. This allows the flat colours to be more textured than they may at first appear, even when using acrylic paint. We all have so many associations with specific colours, especially when they are singular like each of the arcs that make up a rainbow, and I think I could probably articulate and recall tangible memories of all the flat colours in my paintings. They could be from sights in nature, or art historical, or more specifically the bright red of the plastic record player I had as a small child, and then the yellow Panasonic one that came along when I was five, and the Lego blocks where my journeys in space started.
Currimjee was born in Mauritius in 1963, and studied Biology and Art History at Williams College, Massachusetts, and Architecture at Rice University in Houston, Texas. An alumnus of London’s Gasworks studio residency programme, Currimjee has shown on the biennales of Johannesburg, Seychelles and Cairo; the Lalit Kala Akademi Triennial of New Delhi; and in galleries in Berlin and London. This is his second solo show with Stevenson – the first, A play in space, was held online and in Port Louis in 2020; he participated in the group exhibition Works on Paper in Cape Town in 2021. It is his 14th solo show in Mauritius, where his exhibitions throughout the years, held in old buildings or structures in Port Louis, have in a way mapped the city – a project in itself.
Journeys in Space opens in Amsterdam on 12 November, 12 to 6pm. The second part of the exhibition takes place at 51 Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Street, Port Louis, Mauritius, opening on 17 November, 5 to 8pm.
The Amsterdam gallery is closed from 18 December and reopens on 14 January.