Kour Pour lifts from the past to study the present. Re-mapping art histories, labour and cultural exchange, his intricate works have a rare kind of rich beauty.
Pour’s practice is founded on re-appropriation. While he is best known for his interpretations of Persian rugs, Pour’s image-making shifts between varied styles and processes. His paintings and prints weave together three main elements: ornamentation, abstraction, and repeated representational motifs.
- Solo show, Manzareh/Keshiki/Landscape at Ever Gold Projects, San Francisco, 2019
- Solo show, Returnee, at The Club, Tokyo, 2019
- Solo show, Polypainting at Gnyp Gallery, Berlin, and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, 2018
- Solo show, Abrash at the Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago, 2018
- Duo show with Kazuo Shiraga, Earthquakes and The Mid Winter Burning Sun at Ever Gold Projects, San Francisco, 2017
Together, these accumulate into complex, layered compositions on canvas and paper that feel simultaneously ancient and contemporary, Eastern and Western. At the crux of Pour’s practice is his deliberate borrowing from art history: arabic lettering recalls medieval Islamic manuscripts; swathes of bright colour elicit abstract expressionism and action art; small figures are depicted in the style of Persian miniature painting; hieroglyphics are drawn from Ancient Egypt; and decorative borders evoke the 1970s Pattern and Decoration movement in America. By adopting such a vast array of symbols, Pour uses the past to examine cultural development in a post-colonial age—in all its complex contradiction.
Pour’s process is an integral part of his practice. His 2015 work, Rising Sun (Pacific Ocean), is a medium-sized abstract print that was created using Mokuhanga, a traditional Japanese woodblock printing technique. The composition, which is traced from a map in the Japanese Geological Survey, depicts interlocking jagged shapes in vivid reds, rusty oranges and deep umbers. Each individual shade is cut by hand, and then printed in separate layers onto the canvas. In the work, the texture varies from block inky colour to more dusty, speckled surfaces. These variations trace the artist’s hand, opening up conversations around the invisibility of labour throughout history and in our current globalised world.
Pour’s work is an echo of historic cultural crossover. Instances of economic, artistic and cultural exchange inform his practice: the export of rugs on the Silk Road, the influence of Ukiyo-e prints on Impressionism, and nuances such as the fact that tempura, considered quintessentially Japanese, was originally a Portuguese export. Pour continues this lineage of cultural evolution in his practice, constantly mixing up meaning and visual symbols to affirm and resist our expectations. Prints are presented as if they are paintings, and explorations of colour and form appear abstract, when, in fact, they depict maps and systems. Thus, Pour’s oeuvre elucidates culture as an ever-changing entity—a reminder that art, ultimately, is a re-invention, appropriation, and negation of what has come before.
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