Sikander Pervez

Following on from my post on FOUND at the New Art Gallery Walsall, this exhibition is accompanied by another, solo show – that of Sikander Pervez.

Pervez was selected for New Art West Midlands 2014 – an event at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, celebrating outstanding fine art graduates from the West Midlands Universities. I wrote about the opening night last year (click here to see my post), and was touched to receive an email inviting me to the private view of this new exhibition. It was much appreciated, and it’s fascinating to see how Pervez’s work had developed, one year on.

The orange chair is from last year.  The sleek pine forms the current exhibition:

The exhibition consists of a series of four sculptures, made of flat-pack pine tables and chairs, which like his previous work both undermines and maintains the conversation with new and old, pre-existing structures and original artistic creation. It nicely links with the show downstairs, as Pervez used to use ‘found objects’, but has now chosen not to. We have moved from found, to chosen.

From a personal perspective, I always appreciate the histories and narratives that come with pre-existing and pre-used objects – the sense of change through time; additions and subtractions that inevitably take place in our surroundings, ourselves and the objects that surround us. However, as Pervez explicitly states, these pieces of flat pack furniture are now ‘without evident history until their transformation into sculptural forms.’

My main question with regards to this, is if the history, the back story is now less important, what need is there to limit oneself to furniture?

There is a certain uneasy juxtaposition between the attention to human bodies, and the spaces they occupy, and the abstract realm of sculptural forms. Pervez’s work seems to focus on structural elements of the monumental forms, not their pre-ordained uses and stories (this disappears into a background of straight lines); so why not accentuate this ‘neutrality of narrative’ further?

One particularly interesting aspect (for me as an art historian), was the links with these strikingly modern pieces, ‘without evident history’, and their hidden links to paradigmatic artistic moments. Pervez says that his work nods towards the analytical cubism of Pablo Picasso and George Braques, as well as Duchamp’s famous ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’. One can certainly see this, in the fragmentary appearance, multiple viewpoints and overlapping planes of wooden forms. The artwork takes three-dimensional furniture as its starting point – views it through the two-dimensional lens of cubism – and then transforms this view into a three-dimensional piece of sculpture.  Incongruity at its finest!

Pervez’s entirely re-envisaged furniture takes the ‘ready-made’ and transforms it into something with an entirely different significance and meaning – still recognizable as the original object, yet inorexably changed.  Here, one can really see the change from ‘found’ to ‘chosen’ – “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist” with Pervez carefully his selecting mass-produced objects and re-modifying them into art. Flat-pack furniture is perhaps today’s perfect expression of Duchamp’s prized ‘visual indifference’.

In a wonderfully circular way, Pervez’s ambiguity in his artwork’s relationship with its own history, further speaks to the irony, humour and uncertainty so important to these early pioneers. In the words of Duchamp, ‘I force myself to contradict myself, in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.’

The exhibition is well worth a visit, and is on until the 19th of April. Entry is free.

More information can be found on the New Art Gallery Walsall’s website.

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