Catalogue entry

T05012 The Angel of Thought 1987

Black ink, white gouache, gold and silver paints, pink chalk and red wax crayon on paper 498 × 699 (19 3/4 × 27 1/2); watermark ‘INGRES FABRIANO’
Inscribed ‘Shirazeh Houshiary’ in pencil on back
Presented by the Weltkunst Foundation 1987
Exh: Shirazeh Houshiary: Breath, Lisson Gallery, Sept.–Oct. 1987 (no number)

In the middle of this work on paper the artist has depicted a cylindrical form with two elliptical discs balancing or attached on either side like wings. The discs are painted silver with gold inner rims, although the centre of the left disc is painted black and the centre of the right disc is painted white. In addition, the disc on the right is edged with an agitated border of magenta-coloured crayon. There is a small dark blue mark on the cylindrical form between the discs, reminiscent of the centre of a flame.

Despite the central position of the form, the overall composition is strikingly asymmetrical. The left side of the picture is blank, contrasting strongly with the profusion of paint, chalk and crayon marks on the right. These rapidly drawn vertical and diagonal marks create the impression that the form occupies a three-dimensional space. However, the contrast of pink chalk on the predominantly black lines draws attention to the picture surface. With the exception of the discs, the artist has used very lively, expressive marks which convey a sense of energy.

T05012 is one of a group of at least eleven works on paper made by the artist between 1985 and 1987, that, together with a number of sculptures, addressed the subject of the angel (see entries on Houshiary's sculpture ‘The Earth is an Angel’, T05022, and works on paper T05013-T05017). The sculptures are documented along with some of the drawings in Shirazeh Houshiary, exh. cat., Centre d'art contemporain, Geneva 1988. Seven of the sculptures refer to an angel or to angel's wings in their titles, including ‘The Angel of Thought’, 1987 (repr. p.11), to which T05012 is related. The sculpture comprises two elliptical discs, one of darkened copper with a hollow centre, the other of zinc with a darkened copper edge. They correspond to the discs depicted in T05012, although in the sculpture they are joined at the top forming a pyramid shape with the ground.

T05012 is the only work on paper relating to ‘The Angel of Thought’. However, other related works on paper included in the group, in addition to those listed above are: ‘Study for “Between the Earth and Sky” (i)’ and ‘(ii)’, 1987 (Weltkunst Foundation); ‘Untitled’, 1987 (repr. Geneva exh. cat., 1988, p.55 in col.); ‘Untitled’, 1987 (repr. ibid., p.55 in col.); and ‘Study for “Distance is Lit by Round Wings”’, 1987 (repr. ibid., p.22). In spite of their titles, these works were not made as studies for sculptures. After 1987 the artist continued to make drawings with gestural marks and organic shapes, similar in style to those made in the previous two years (see, for example, ‘Listen to the reed and the tale it tells...’, repr. Images of Absence: Sings of Desire, exh. cat., Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterloo 1990, p.30 in col.).

Houshiary made the group of works on paper concurrently with the sculptures and did not use them as studies or working drawings for the sculptures to which they relate (see entry on T05013).

The artist has approved this entry.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996