The Line of March is a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Pouran Jinchi. With her new body of work, Pouran returns to a fundamental preoccupation – the parallels between art and language as modes of communication – while extending her artistic expression in new directions.
The artist quietly inventories the unspoken traces of endless wars, perpetual conflict, and pervasive militarism. For months, she has been pouring over documents on the visual apparatus of military power, noting the discreet ways these tonalities seep into culture. From Morse code and phonetic alphabets to military insignia and medals, from war paint to camouflage, Pouran takes stock of a pervasive military aesthetic. Her research extends to the ways military jargon permeates our common language, jotting notes in her notebooks – deployed, regimented, cypher, war of words, occupied. All of it becomes source material for her artworks.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from a painting by the 18th century French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau, who depicted the lives of common soldiers in times of war. Pouran studied photographs of the German city of Koblenz, where architectural fragments that remain from the destruction of WWII have been integrated into modern architecture. She unearthed a black and white photograph from 1920s Leningrad showing Soviet chess masters playing the game on a massive chessboard at the Palace Square using soldiers from the Red Army as the black pieces and sailors from the navy for the white pieces.
This archival bent feeds into Pouran’s formal experimentation. The decision to work across various genres from painting and drawing to sculpture and embroidery was itself deliberate, echoing the myriad ways military aesthetic inflects our ordinary life. She sews Morse code by hand onto desert hued linen cloth. She crafts sculptures from brass and copper, arranging them like chess pieces on a battlefield. Using wood and enamel, she creates sculptural paintings that recall architectural remnants piled in wartime rubble. On these enamel tiles, she uses finely calibrated brush strokes to paint fragmented Persian letters corresponding to the military’s phonetic alphabet – A is for Alpha, J is for Juliet, V is for Victory. Pouran’s new art takes shape through this dynamic synergy between her perpetual research on a given subject and her unconventional use of materials, her play on color. In all of Pouran’s work, color has meaning. For each new series, she creates an original palette. The tones of this exhibition come from battleground camouflage, the stripes of military ribbons, and the coded shades of naval flags.
As she incorporates new forms into her practice, Pouran’s art traverses new territories. Her work gravitates between gesture and geometry. The calligraphic line evolves into a geometric grid, the linear into abstract structural form. Concept merges with form, and as a whole the exhibition becomes an intervention on the architecture of language.
Text by Shiva Balaghi
About Pouran Jinchi
Born in Mashhad, a sacred shrine city in Iran, Pouran Jinchi became attuned early in life to the ways architecture, objects, decoration, and the written word can be imbued with symbolic power. This awareness is threaded throughout her body of work, which explores the dense intersectionality of literary and pictorial narratives.
Pouran’s art has been featured internationally in exhibitions in New York, London, Venice, Dusseldorf, Dubai, Jeddah, Shanghai, and Tokyo. These include The Great Game, Iranian Pavilion 56th Venice Biennale, Italy (2015); Ravaged Garden, NYU Art Gallery, New York (2015); Accented, Maraya Art Center, Sharjah, UAE (2015); The Blind Owl, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2013); New Blue and White, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2013); Dawn, Noon and Night, Art Projects International, New York (2012); Phantoms of Asia, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (2012); Entropy; Ritual Imprint, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2010); Light of the Sufi: Mystical Arts of Islam, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2010); Light of the Sufi: Mystical Arts of Islam, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2009), and Translation/Tarjama, Queens Museum of Art, New York (2009). Pouran’s work is collected by museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Zayed National Museum, Abu Dhabi; Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University; Pratt Institute, New York.