Shirazeh Houshiary

Beating of her Wings I


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Not on display

Shirazeh Houshiary born 1955
Watercolour, acrylic paint, metallic paint, chalk and graphite on paper
Support: 560 × 760 mm
Presented by the Weltkunst Foundation 1987

Catalogue entry

T05014 Beating of her Wings I 1987

Watercolour, black and white acrylic, silver paint, black chalk and pencil on wove paper 560 × 760 (22 × 30)
Various inscriptions in Persian towards b.r. and towards b.l. and inscribed ‘Shirazeh Houshiary’ in pencil on back b.r.
Presented by the Weltkunst Foundation 1987
Exh: Shirazeh Houshiary: Breath, Lisson Gallery, Sept.–Oct. 1987 (no number)

This work on paper shows a shape, reminiscent of a hat worn by Sufi monks, situated in the corner of a room. The hat-like shape, which is placed almost centrally on the paper, is made up of two vertical wings whose tips almost meet. Between the wings the artist has used white acrylic and white chalk to depict a channel of energy escaping heavenwards. The wings emanate from a silver pod-like shape which opens to reveal a soft, hairy centre. Attached to the base of the pod are three curved wispy lines tapered like feathers to form a tail. At the base of the wall on the left, Houshiary has inscribed in black chalk and pencil the lines of a poem by the thirteenth-century Sufi mystic, Jalalu'ddin Rumi, from his book Divan Shams. The poem also appears in pencil in the blank space to the right of the form.

T05014 is one 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 the entries on T05022, T05012, T05013 and T05015-T05017). Seven sculptures refer directly to an angel or to angel's wings in their titles, but it is difficult to establish exactly how many other pieces relate in some way to this theme. The works on paper often share titles with the sculptures although they were not made as studies. The artist made four works on paper on the theme of ‘Beating of her Wings’, all of which are in the Tate Gallery's collection (see entries on T05015-T05017). In conversation with the compiler on 19 October 1994, the artist said that she may have made some of the drawings on the same day and that they had no particular order. The drawings relate to the sculpture ‘Beating of her Wings’, 1987 (repr. Shirazeh Houshiary, exh. cat., Centre d'art contemporain, Geneva 1988, p.37), which comprises a form very similar to that depicted in T05014. The artist wanted the sculpture and the works on paper to evoke the form of a musical note floating on a sheet, or like a sound hovering in the air.

In conversation with the compiler on 2 March 1994 the artist explained that in the series ‘Beating of her Wings’ she tried to capture the rhythm of the poems inscribed on the works ‘because they very often deal with sound, they are like music, they capture rhythm, and I just try to capture those rhythms’. On 19 October 1994 Houshiary also told the compiler that the forms of the wings in this series repeat the forms of the poems, which are also like dance rhythms.

The artist has approved this entry.

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

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