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STPI is proud to present “The River is Within Us”, the rst solo exhibition of UK-based artist Shirazeh Houshiary in Southeast Asia. She is known for her multimedia installations like Breath, a collateral event at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), as well as the 2008 East Window for St Martins in the Fields in London. Additionally, she has completed several site-specic commissions within the fashion industry for notable gures like Jimmy Choo and Victoria Beckham. Though a sculptor, her unique preoccupation with painting, installation, lm and architectural projects have set her apart from contemporaries Anish Kapoor and Richard Deacon, all of whom were part of the new British sculpture movement in the early 1980s.


This time, her readiness to test the relevance of paper in today’s digital age has propelled her to expand and push the boundaries of her earlier work. These fresh renditions at STPI continue to challenge our perception of similarities and di erences between cultures, with the ultimate emphasis on the absolute interconnection of humanity. Her latest works will be presented alongside Breath, which will be installed in the centre of the gallery.

In a poetic series of ‘tablets’ bearing the same title The River Is Within Us, Houshiary combined thin layers of handmade paper with perspex that illuminate a single word selected from the Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic, Mandarin and Latin languages; their colours reect emotional states and respective nationalities. “One of my interests is in words, their use in the visual arts, and the fact that all cultures have tried to preserve the word,” says Houshiary. According to writer and critic Sue Hubbard, “language is what connects us to civilization and to the wider universe. We speak, therefore we are. It denes us as sentient, imaginative beings.”

Text has been employed by Houshiary here as a means to “capture breath”, symbolic of one’s “own existence, transcending name, nationality and cultures.” Subtle yet radiant in appearance, the ‘tablets’ evoke light emanating from the computer screen, which for Houshiary “has become the paper for the next generation”.

This focus on layers of history, evolution and the root that binds humanity are concepts that are also explored in her indigo etching works titled Migrants, which features general viewpoints of foliage that was taken in Singapore during her residency. Just as the image suggests a view from both the top and bottom of the tree, not as a xed dened point of view, Houshiary challenges our perception of migration, and on the wider whole, culture and civilization, highlighting its uid, organic nature simply with no centre and boundaries. It is as Hubbard writes, “a visual and physical world without borders.”

Given their abstract quality, this body of work will stir the senses, and encourage viewers to feel rather than analyze and comprehend.


Houshiary was born in Shiraz, Iran, where she attended university before moving to London where she currently lives and works. She studied at Chelsea School of Art, London and emerged with the new British Sculpture movement in the early 1980s, alongside artists including Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon and Anish Kapoor. Her broad practice encompasses painting, sculpture, installation, architectural projects and lm. Whether nely wrought skeins of pencil and pigment, elliptical brick towers or eeting digital apparitions, her works attempt to visualise modes of perception, articulating a metaphysical reality that lies beyond form and surface. Recent projects include the solo exhibition, ‘Breath’, a collateral event of the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); the Kiev Biennale (2012); and the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010). Her works are collected by museums ranging from Tate, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. She is represented by Lisson Gallery and Lehmann Maupin.

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