Mirak Jamal’s my dear friends in Berlin running at Berlin’s Ashley from January 30 to February 19 is the first in a series of hybrid exhibitions in which the boundaries between solo and group shows are reconfigured. The series, entitled, Intercalating the Drift, will also include works by George Rippon and Michele Di Menna, but it is Jamal’s work that sets the series in motion.
In my dear friends in Berlin, the artist’s pieces are placed flush with the walls and represent a varied range of imagery and means of creation. On the north one of the gallery, a scratched hazy photographic image of a dog urinating marks its territory near a rectangular piece that evokes and sublimates Malevichian geometries. The black of Jamal’s rectangle has nothing like the assertive clarity of Russian painter’s black square, yet there is a deeper geometric dynamic it evokes: every black square is a black rectangle, but not every black rectangle is a black square.
Along the western wall of the space, the works continue their games of perception and logic. Another one based on a photo, in this case, an image of peaceable yellow balconies, is placed considerably higher than eye level, forcing the viewer to look up. This kind of direction suggests that Jamal is acutely concerned with the dynamics of space both within and beyond the gallery. The viewer performs the ritual of directing their eyes upwards to see the top of a building while inside one. Such conceptual satires address as much our ways of seeing as the content we see.
The content of Jamal’s images are not limited to photographic references. There is a Daisy Age frieze on the eastern wall of the space that shimmers above a metal plate along the wall. Its offhand expressiveness is underwritten by its very materiality. The solidity of the etched flowers and the industrial colour scheme the work integrates again subvert contextual and semiotic expectation. These are not the flowers you find in nature, but they are also not the flowers that are frozen in their transient beauty from art history; they are flowers of pure signification, and, therefore, resist any modalities of domesticity that floral wall patterns may evoke. The material dialogues the works embody feel like, perhaps, their most immediately affecting quality, but, ultimately these works constitute the ‘background’ of the forthcoming Rippon and Di Menna shows, and so they have a kind of proleptic melancholy as well. Jamal’s flowers will not easily fade into the decor as other works appear, but the consideration Jamal has brought to the placement of that and other works will set a formidable challenge for the next two participants in Intercalating the Drift. The territory on which they will work is now forcefully defined, in a sense, by an urban geography of Jamal’s design.**
Exhibition photos, top right.