Leila Heller Gallery presents a selection of work from the recent exhibition at Leila Heller Gallery New York, a collaboration of filmmaker Shoja Azari and painter Shahram Karimi. The Cold Earth Sleeps Below features three of the artists’ unique, hallmark video-paintings, portraying and exploring humanity’s relation to the natural landscape. The exhibition takes its title from the work of English poet Percy Shelley; the artists seek to revisit, in their own words, the contemporary relevance of “the paradoxical notion of beauty and the sublime that the Romantics fought to free from the clutch of utilitarian materialism, egoism, and the rational mind of the 18th century”.
Beauty betrays; yet its seduction remains as compelling as its deception. In the hypnotic, shimmering collaborations between Shoja Azari and Shahram Karimi, a deep suspicion of the beautiful reveals disaster below the surface of the idyllic: a terrible sublime. For each composition, the painted canvas, layered with elements of relief texture and written text, mirrors the video image; according to the artists, their cooperative “artistic intervention attempts at thwarting or enhancing the perception of the neglected.”
For Azari and Karimi, however, as for Shelley, the beautiful is not a placid or comforting manifestation of equilibrium, symmetry, or harmony, but a violent, visceral experience of awe, even terror. As the artists state: “With the continuing arrogance, objectification, and destruction of nature since the Industrial Revolution, we believe that man might have arrived at a point of no return. Nature is rebelling and with it is unleashing its great powers of awe and terror. The future of our species, and that of others, is unknown.” The beautiful here is not serene, but sublime.