Stevenson is pleased to host A play in space, an exhibition of recent paintings, sculpture and photography by architect and artist Salim Currimjee. The exhibition takes place at La Place, a cluster of spaces within a courtyard on the Place d’Armes, the central boulevard in Port Louis, Mauritius.
The precedents for this exhibition can be traced back to when Currimjee was studying Architecture at Rice University, Houston, and one of the assigned projects was the design of the Mies van der Rohe courtyard house with its interplay of inside and out. At the same time Currimjee was introduced to the work of Jeffrey Bawa, the modernist architect who, on his return to Sri Lanka, adapted modernism to the vernacular of his country with a blurring of internal and external spaces, integrating gardens into his designs. Currimjee’s parallel pursuit of architecture and art began in 1991, upon his return to Mauritius, when he showed his first exhibition of paintings and started practising as an architect.
Over the years Currimjee has built new structures in Mauritius and the surrounding Indian Ocean islands, and rehabilitated historic sites in line with local construction and artisanal traditions, often juxtaposing the antiquated structures with modernist elements. He has previously presented exhibitions of his art in the unrenovated old buildings of Port Louis. This, his 13th solo exhibition, is the first time he has shown his paintings within one of his own restoration projects.
In the architect’s words:
'When you design a building, you’re making an object. Every building you see has an identity, it has an ego, it’s trying to say something. But La Place is a completely internalised space. This project, it doesn’t have a front, or a back, or a side. You don’t see it from the street. You have to go through something – you walk through an alley, and then you enter this courtyard, which for me is a womb-like negative space. It was a non-space before, a complete junkyard; a space that existed but didn’t exist. It was concealed, it was hidden, and so this project was about creating space from a non-space, making an internal construction that is experienced outside.'
Currimjee’s multidisciplinary approach stems from his time in Houston, where the graduate program encouraged students to take a quarter of their classes in the fine arts department. The intermingling of practices is evident in his work over the past 30 years, with forms and fixtures simultaneously personal, domestic and cartographic. The artist continues:
'I am interested that space, as we perceive it, is a construct of our perception. In reality we often need to remind ourselves that man is central to the notion of three-dimensional space. It does not exist independent of infinite space, and so the manner in which we perceive space defines the experience of who we are.'
'In seeking to represent the abstraction of what we call space, a syntax of Cartesian and organic symbols has evolved in my work over the years in which hierarchies and grids and linear readings are fragmented. Symbols that start with an architectural form – windows, doors (squares and rectangles) – zoom to lines, roads and maps and aerial landscapes. For a viewer, the connections they make between the marks and forms determines its meaning – there is no singular or linear interpretation of the matrix I am depicting. This further extends to the materiality of the works which are often hybridised – collage, drawing in ink and pencil, watercolour, painting and photography often co-exist and dissolve the perceived definitions of painting and sculpture and drawing. A painting may stand on the floor, a sculpture may hang on a wall, playing with the ideas between two- and three-dimensions, and perhaps alluding to dimensions of space we cannot convey within the limitations of words and forms.'
Currimjee was born in Mauritius in 1963, and studied Biology and Art History at Williams College, Massachusetts, and Architecture at Rice University. An alumnus of London’s Gasworks studio residency programme, Currimjee has shown on the biennales of Johannesburg, Seychelles and Cairo; the Lalit Kala Akademi Triennial of New Delhi; and in galleries in Berlin and London.
Please click here for a list of additional drawings and photographs.