Epitomizing When The Moon Split, the British artist Saad Qureshi’s second exhibition at Aicon Gallery, is the namesake sculpture of a moon split into two vertical pieces. Suspending from the ceiling at the heart of the gallery, the fiberglass and resin sculpture emanates from a myth in the Quran in which Mohammed, facing skepticism about his faith, separates the moon into two pieces for the people of Mecca as proof of his high power and devotion to the religion of Islam. While many followers of the religion believe this miracle happened during Mohammed’s lifetime, some insist that this split is due to happen on the judgment day. Such dualism between past and present, myth and prophecy, and body and ethereality encapsulates the Oxford-based artist’s hypnotic exhibition at the downtown gallery.
For Qureshi who heavily studies interpretations of religion in contemporary landscape in his artistic practice, this miracle is not only a fruitful narrative on understating of religious myths in the 21st century but also a source of immersive visual ambiance. Hung above the eye level, this towering sculpture engages with the audience in intimate ways. The gap between two halves makes the passage through the ruptured moon possible, immersing the audience into a contemplative exchange with the work. Observed from the outside, the sculpture poses between abstraction and representation, not unlike examples of mid-20th-century western sculpture in which non-figurative large scale three dimensionalities defined meditation on the self.
When stripped from its religious connotations, the moon as a scientific entity has been a source of mystery and anticipation for the dwellers of the Earth. Not as grand and destructive as the Sun, the moon echoes with humbleness, uncertainty, and melancholy, signaling the night and desolation. In Qureshi’s depiction, the moon seems both apocalyptic and serene, offering the aftermath of the split as a territory for the audience to ponder on. The artist’s use of color and material particularly supports his orchestration of an otherworldly landscape where the past and present intertwine, and the question of whether the work narrates a bygone time or a dystopian future remains unclear.
Surrounding this haunting sculpture is a series of wood ash, black sand, charcoal and ink drawings on gaboon plywood. Elevating the lunar experience of Qureshi’s hypnotizing presentation, these large-scale drawings merge ethereality with endurance, while drawing viewers into a contemplative realm where barren and desolate landscapes both give comfort and daunt. The moonlight effect in the drawings is the result of a meticulous process the artist perfected using welded iron on heavy-duty watercolor paper. Blanketing the entire surface with iron oxide pigment, Qureshi achieves a mesmerizing aura of night vision that reminisces memories as they wane. Between disappearance and resilience, fleeing moments gloriously revive in works such as Night That Witnessed, Secret Garden I, and Shadow of the Night.
Saad Qureshi | When The Moon Split at Aicon Gallery, New York
September 21 – November 4, 2017
35 Great Jones Street New York, NY 10012
-Osman Can Yerebakan
Photographs provided by the gallery and the artist