Armita Rafaat’s installation subtly transforms the pristine walls of the gallery into the crumbling architecture of the Middle East.
Working in the structures, patterns and motifs of Islamic and Persian architecture, Rafaat applies ornament in a state of ruin, often to the perimeter of the site, with patterns spreading, dripping and crumbling from corner to floor. For this exhibition, Rafaat specifically refers to Muqarnas (moo-raan-naas), an element developed simultaneously (and apparently independently) in 10th Century North Eastern Iran and Central North Africa. Unlike other elements, Muqarnas has no intrinsic limits, with no finite unit of composition it is therefore changeable and expansive, leaving the builder “free” to use the Muqarnas at the discretion of their design.
Although Rafaat’s current work speaks to her personal experience – growing up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, as well as the current political strife in both her homeland and the Middle East in general – it also acts as a powerful and universal metaphor for cultural ruin. With the gallery acting as diorama, architecture and ornament, heroics and beauty, are pushed and clinging to the margins, creating a spectacular tension in Rafaat’s subtle staging as what is at once glorious and precious, is re-created, re-obliterated, re-revealed and re-destroyed.