Shaan Syed: Catalogue

Cat. Kunsthalle Winterthur

Exhibition catalogue, edited by Oliver Kielmayer, Kunsthalle Winterthur
Text (German/English) by Oliver Kielmayer
128 p with 322 coloured illustrations
290 x 225 mm, softcover with flaps

ISBN 978-3-86442-144-0

(out of print)


At the beginning of Oliver Kielmayer’s introductory text about the artistic career of Canadian/British artist Shaan Syed is a funny yet insightful story that seems to stand over this tableau-like book on Shaan Syed’s work since graduating from Goldsmith College in 2006. Sometime in the 1990s, the artist attended a concert by Sinéad O'Connor and, after admission, he positioned himself immediately in front of the stage. Unfortunately, he almost never got to see Sinéad O'Connor because she hardly ever went to the front edge of the stage; neither could he go any further back himself because of the throng of people behind him. However, this experience yielded a pictorial idea that related directly to the inadvertent view of the »empty« stage, and that, according to Kielmayer, represents Shaan Syed’s general approach. You can hardly equate »aesthetic experience ... with a concert, an LSD trip or religious enlightenment; and yet all these experiences have in common that contact with a realm beyond that escapes a purely cognitive or linguistic grasp, and which, at the same time, has emotional repercussions in this world. It is no coincidence that Syed’s formal compositions sometimes resemble abstract versions of Indian Tantric painting. In this centuries-old tradition, the image serves neither as instruction nor as decoration but as a stimulus for a move into a spiritual sphere. Leaving aside the important meditative purpose of Tantra, this concept corresponds very precisely to the ideas of the artistic modernity at the beginning of the 19th century, eventually comprised under the keyword of autonomy: The rejection of the representational purpose, coupled with an emphasis on the intrinsic value of an image. This autonomy of art means, above all, that it can basically assume any form and any content; however, at the same time it also implies that a work of art, in all its freedom of choice with respect to content and form, at least should facilitate some kind of aesthetic experience.«

Kunsthalle Winterthur, 27/9–22/11/2015