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Rasheed Araeen

Born 1935 in Karachi, Pakistan.
Lives and works in London.

Rasheed Araeen’s groundbreaking interpretations of Minimalism were born out of his academic undertaking in civil engineering. When he realized that the profession did not satisfy his artistic needs, he traded the rigidity of engineering for the freedom of expression offered by a dedicated art practice. Drawing from his studies, Araeen began producing ‘structures’ – works made in an open modular form that can be re-positioned. Although based in London, far away from the New York hub of Minimalist art, Araeen developed strikingly similar rhetoric to canonical artists such as Donald Judd. There are, however, key distinctions between Araeen and the New York group. For art critic Jean Fisher, this is the “difference between an instrumental, abstract-logical regulation of the world and an organic one.”

Alongside his structures, Araeen has produced a varied body of paintings and two-dimensional assemblages. In his calligraphic paintings, the artist references famous Islamic thinkers of the Abbasid era (8th – 13th century) and encodes their names in complicated geometric structures. While Arabic philosophy and Islamic calligraphy play an important role in his work, the artist warns against reductive interpretations of his work, noting that the symmetry of geometry in Islamic art acts as an allegory for human equality. In his cruciform works, Araeen combines photographic images with painted green panels. The final result is a raw and grainy image that exemplifies the tensions between East and West, particularly after the Gulf wars.