August Issue 2008
The Magic of Mir’s Line
An intelligent interplay of geometric severity and organic pliancy, ‘Dimensions of the Illimitable’ by Imran Mir, shown at VM Gallery, is a cogent argument not only for abstract painting, but also for the continuing vitality of a late modernist aesthetic.
Organic abstraction derives from forms found in nature, from plants and animals in the landscape, as well as the human body. Curvilinear form, dimension, mass, texture and colours from a muted palette often characterise these works. Diametrically opposed to organic abstraction, geometric abstraction comes from the analytical and mechanistic realms. Hard lines, flat areas of space and bright and unnatural colours typically characterise these works. A highly evolved level of design dominates the compositions. Geometric abstraction is often viewed as art for art’s sake.
Recasting the European/American models and aims of modernist art, Mir, assiduously searching for a new rhetoric of abstract painting, continues to test audience perceptions with his challenging ‘Papers on Modern Art.’ Exhibiting for well over three decades now, he recently put up works from his Tenth and Eleventh Papers.
Ranging from large to extra large and outsize in scale, the works are assertive yet impersonal. Deliberately avoiding the use or concealing the identity of any recognisable form of reality, Mir rejects specificity of subject, choosing to rely more on aesthetic design elements to build content in his paintings. Investing his faith in the magic of the line, Mir exploits its manifold technical possibilities. Inventing a remarkably precise method of painting geometric circles, squares and triangles in a grid format, he has perfected his hold on frameworks and networks of lines as primary manifestations of form in his compositions. Unlike works concentrating on emotional, social or political issues, his paintings build substance by integrating geometric and organic shapes. The organic lines give movement and flow to the art, while the geometric lines give structure and stability. Together, they create energy and excitement on the canvas as the eye comprehends first one and then the other. A deeper and closer interaction with the spherical grid paintings reveals a statistical network of lines that crisscross each other in a truly entrancing mathematical sense of motion. Mir’s ability to endow rigid stolid configurations with poise and grace could well be the challenge he grapples with in his art. The artist in him emerges as a designer trying to humanise the abstract forces of technology.
Chromatic choices are also deliberate in Mir’s compositions. The intensity and spread of his primaries like blue, red and yellow are as calculated as the precision of his geometric renderings. He revels in flat hard-edged applications of paint over large areas but, at times, the softest of strokes casually brushed along is all that is needed to animate the huge dead expanse of a single harsh tone.
Referencing imagery related to industrial design, Mir’s repertoire concentrates mainly on emphatic graphics to define his thrust. Rooted in the reductive aspect of modernism, his minimal, concrete and mechanical forms recede and advance, balance and float, disintegrate and reform to create engaging optical variations in vast fields of spatial ambiguity. Uncanny and mysterious, it is the very simplicity in his art that evokes complex responses. The strength of the show is grounded in the beauty and whimsy of the pieces.