BROWN London

42 Hoxton Square
N1 6PB London

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press release

Opening reception: November 23 from 6-8pm

Brown is pleased to present Arena, an exhibition of new paintings and collages by London-based artist Shaan Syed.

The works in Arena derive from an ongoing series of paintings Syed began two years ago, which he calls his “stage” paintings. These paintings refer to a curious phenomena that occurs at large stadium concerts. The audience, mesmerized by the performer, is drawn forward toward the stage, yet their access to the center is mitigated by the impenetrable platform itself. The seemingly utilitarian dais that enables maximum exposure of the performer is revealed in its true colour: a self-regulating buffer and disciplinary structure that separates and keeps at bay the mass from the individual. It is this understanding of the mechanics and the politics of spectacle that form the core meaning of the work in Arena.

At the front of the gallery are a series of paper and vellum collages developed in tandem with the stage paintings. As sketches for new stage paintings, the collages are also studies in geometry and design, exploring the formal arrangement of colour and stripes, referencing flags or sport insignia. In the main gallery space are a series of paintings titled And When You’re (Really) High. These paintings address the notion of negative space by using rays of colour to carve out a space from within the thick, glossy, black paint. Here Syed plays with perspective, texture and luminosity to create empty spaces within the canvas through angle and line, inviting the viewer into the center of the void, everywhere and nowhere at once.

Syed’s paintings question our relationship to the focal point and our desire to be at this position. They are at once abstract while also referring to the reality of the conflicting relationship we have with spectacle. With a nod to the utopianism of modernism, he touches on the significance of sport and war as part of the language of spectacle. By taking Malevich’s and Reinhardt’s iconic black to the opposite extreme, he accentuates the negative with gloss and texture and creates a language where his black acts either as a barrier or as an ocean-like oil slick that can be read as landscape.

Shaan Syed was born in 1975 in Toronto, Canada and lives and works in London. He received his MFA from Goldsmiths College, London in 2006 and a diploma in Fine Art from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto in 2000. At Goldsmiths, he was recipient of the Wardens Purchase Prize. In 2005 he won the student section of the newly established Celeste Painting Prize UK. Syed has had solo exhibitions at Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, and Birch Libralato, Toronto. He has participated in group shows at S1 Artspace, Sheffield and Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne. This is his first solo exhibition in London and with Brown.

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Shaan Syed