LondonJason Seife: A Small Spark vs a Great Forest
In 2018, Jason Seife’s solo exhibition Nucleus took place at the Sharjah Art Museum in the United Arab Emirates. Since then, Seife has been building towards A Small Spark vs a Great Forest. After undertaking a personal and artistic journey through Iran, Syria and Turkey, Seife presents his first solo exhibition with Unit London.
At the heart of A Small Spark vs a Great Forest is an understanding of the collective nature of humanity: in Seife’s mind we are all trees in the same forest.
Whether from North or South, East or West we are, in essence, cut from the same cloth. This kind of ubiquitous humanity has been emphasised by the Coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has no concern for the borders that humankind have drawn; it spreads indiscriminately, irrespective of race, nationality, gender or religion, one more wildfire in our burning world. Jason Seife looks to take this renewed appreciation and understanding of cultural equality and explore it by connecting with his Middle-Eastern heritage. By studying the skills of craftsmen from different cultures and adapting these aesthetics, Seife is striving to find a way of making these processes relevant to new generations. Embedded in this process is the desire to absolve people from the anxiety associated with an uncertain identity; just as the pandemic was a great leveler, so too is art.
‘Seeing three years of work come together in this show makes it one of the most personal bodies of work I’ve made.’
Seife’s process is tripartite: travelling from hand to machine, and then back to hand. He begins by sketching an ‘outline design’ inspired by carpet makers in the Middle-East, these often include byzantine arabesques and the intricate intertwining of floral shapes.
This hand-drawn foundation is then rendered in 3D using computer software that manipulates colour and light, producing a reference image that has a sense of relief. This software also allows for the introduction of negative space in the reference image, conveying a poignant sense of decay. Seife then zooms in on certain sections of this digital work – certain segments of his forest – and begins to meticulously hand paint these areas without the aid of any technology.
This physical-digital-physical process not only allows Seife to induce a more affecting visual experience in the viewer, it also stresses the notion that craftsmanship in art is given power by the physical expression of an artist’s actions. Although these ideas are evolving and there are numerous contemporary artists that have never picked up a brush, A Small Spark vs a Great Forest is a testament to the past ideals of both the artistic process, and the effect it can have on anybody in the world.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)