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Off Centered Pauses

Sarah Almehairi

2023. 9. 4. - 10. 7

At first glance, Sarah Almehairi’s works feel delicately organized and exude a strong sense of aura that seems to have a calming and soothing effect. A momentary pause for further observations, however, leads to realization that each of the works is in fact full of inconsistencies and contradictions challenging the conventional form and structure. Almehairi’s examination of the many situations and paths in which the concept of “off centered” takes place suggests that we perceive the unbalanced and contradictory as the natural and unrefined.

The exhibition explores the transformation of the “line” through sculptures and paintings, as well as hybrids in between. The line serves various basic functions as the foundation of a composition or structure. It can separate areas and mark boundaries, propose a direction, connect two elements, or break them apart. In relation to this dynamic nature of lines, the “grid,” defined as ‘a network of uniformly spaced horizontal and perpendicular lines,’ is surely one of the prominent foundational concepts behind the new body of work. Considering its definition, the grid offers a prearranged and orderly structure which artists have the freedom to conform to or explore further, expanding from its traditional form. Almehairi opts for the latter, experimenting with the positioning of the lines and thereby creating a new and disrupted variation of grid. Her artistic practice has always had one of its roots in exploring geometric abstraction. The new Off centered series as well as the Rebuild series delve into it while specifically dealing with the linear element and within the space of both two and three-dimensional works. They can be interpreted as attempts to create structures that would challenge the “traditional” form of painting and sculpture, transcending their boundaries while simultaneously combining the two genres together.

Contrasting ideas of “‘uniformity,’ ‘organized structure,’ ‘parallel,’ ‘balance,’” and “‘unevenness,’ ‘deviation,’ ‘extension,’ ‘asymmetry’” coexist within Almehairi’s new body of work. This interesting conjunction results in the overall tranquil and serene effect from the visual aspect. The way she utilizes and positions the lines, whether it is a physical stroke of paint added onto the canvas or that created from the attachment of the wooden pieces, is the main factor in welcoming this dichotomy of feelings to coexist. Looking closer and with attention to each detail, it is possible to notice how the linear elements encompass numerous irregularities and imperfections. Leaps and gaps in between the lines that disrupt the symmetry, diagonal lines placed in the corner of the canvas or stretching out from the wooden extension, and the imbalance caused by the juxtaposition of the canvas and the hollow space created from the wooden borders. These specific features of the exhibited works could reasonably make one feel anxious, uncomfortable, or reluctant enough; yet we still recognize the works themselves to be comforting and visually pleasing.

Almehairi’s artistic practice in general involves calm, toned down, muted, and poetic visuals. These senses are even more palpable throughout the works premiered in this exhibition through her choice of earthy and natural palette. Unlike some of her previous paintings or the original Building Blocks series which incorporated relatively more vibrant, weighty, and sharp color choices such as navy, bright red, or neon orange, the works shown in <Off Centered Pauses> embrace the viewers with almost agrarian tones of dim beige and yellow, various shades of mossy green, faded mint, and turquoise, with black and woody brown adding some gravity. The colors and textures of the original canvases and unaltered, recycled pieces of wood add towards the overall senses related to the land. It is possible to associate the use of such color palette to the reason we feel fondly familiar and somewhat intimate when visually interacting with the works.

When the geometric and compositional element of the line is superimposed upon grounds of muted color, both narrative and structural meaning begins to develop. Viewers are welcomed to cogitate and form their own questions, relating to the titles of each work as well as the interrelationship between the works positioned next to one another within the exhibition space. Derived from the artist’s regular studio notes and thoughts on the numerous occasions we encounter the notion of “off centered,” the titles relate to both tangible and emotional topics. While Off Centered Daylight, Off Centered Grounds, and Off Centered Steps refer to something more direct to the land, Off Centered Stillness, Off Centered Harmony, and Off Centered Secrets suggest more internal experiences. The artist explains, “Having both these references side by side allows for a larger conversation to take place on the intersection between the physical and perceptual relations to the landscapes we encounter.”

We may generally tend to pursue and prefer conditions and situations that are well-controlled or in complete balance. The reality, however, is that what we mistakenly interpret as the organized and systemized is a series of contradictions and imbalance. Sarah Almehairi’s body of work initially brings us in through its visual aspect, then guides us to pause and recognize the “off centered” posed within. The conversation that stems from our comprehension of the lines and colors utilized suggests that the imperfections and inconsistencies are the truly natural. And it is quite comforting to realize that truth.

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