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Anoka Faruqee

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Moirés have a fascinating, stubborn logic that parallels various phenomena in the physical world, such as wave formations, stress patterns, and magnetic fields. My recent paintings explore this interference effect: I overlay two or more offset patterns and the fusion creates another pattern that is quite unlike and much more complex than any of the individual ones. Moirés are also a common unwanted residue of digital and print imagery, when pixelation or banding misregisters. At the heart of the moiré phenomenon is the gulf between what is described (circle on circle, for instance) and what is ultimately experienced. This translation, a type of ‘aliasing’, implies deception or even corruption. But for me, the phenomenon not only exemplifies the plasticity of perception, but also models the dynamism of the physical world.
The moiré paintings are created with notched tools raked through wet paint, in a range of gestures, from freehand to controlled. Multiple layers of paint eventually reveal images that are both illusionistic and material. Despite the smooth surfaces, paint of various viscosities spilling over the edges and slips of the hand expose the process. These works are enigmatic objects that provide the trace of a bodily, material, and momentary act. I decide a painting is done when it asserts a presence that I can only describe as the right balance of discipline and unruliness, when its structure unravels in the act of looking.

This new work exists in a continuum with my longstanding interests in opticality, modularity and topology. My earlier large freehand paintings are also improvisational: I grow the painting, starting with a single hand painted module on the edge or middle of the canvas. I intend the shape, scale and direction of each and every mark during the process of painting to ultimately determine the painting’s own geometric teleology, which also refers back to nature: its seeming chaos and corresponding mathematics. In these works, I mix hundreds of subtly shifting colors to create color gradients that refer to light or painterly bleeds. My gestures in the shape of six pointed asterisks or three pointed tripods derive from Islamic tile geometry. Islamic geometry presents a willfully anti-iconic abstraction, whether developed in response to Christian icons, in adherence to the historical ban on images, or as mathematical perfection describing the infinity of the universe. That tradition was indeed a mathematical forerunner of current digital technology. I’m not interested in merely quoting these forms, suspending them in their historical moment: I use them in the present tense for what they are and what they can become.

Before I begin a painting, there is always some physical, geometric or perceptual question that is just beyond my understanding: how to overlay or connect two curves, how to make my modules compress, how to make them converge to a center point. Only through some combination of analysis and material experience, do I come up with an ‘answer’. While the space in my paintings refers to the undulating space of op art and computer modeling, the objects I present are always filtered through the material of paint in relation to physical actions. My work dissects and captures processes and perceptions, to get a fictional hold on them.

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