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Reza Hasni - A Modern Mythology

Words:

Edd Norval

Photos:

Reza Hasni
February 18, 2022

Building on the foundations of sacred geometry and exploring its link to the spiritual, Reza Hasni’s chaotic, colourful and psychedelic artworks infuse the philosophical with the whimsical, feeding each piece a spoon or two of pop culture to create some dazzling designs.

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The Singaporean artist weaves together organic forms with mathematic geometry, post-Internet waviness and references to some esoteric symbolism spanning as far back as Ancient Egypt. It’s quite the cocktail but, in the hands of Hasni, is compiled expertly enough to provide a real depth that begs to have time spent with it.


Borrowing symbols from around the world - Indian spiritual figures and primordial beings - the artist’s illustrative designs seek to draw out the various energies of the cultures that he’s depicting, stitching all of them together into something entirely unique. Despite its anchor in the historical, these drawings are very much symptomatic of the contemporary.


Hasni raises real issues about the spiritual void apparent in the internet age, where technology has all but consigned the sacred to dusty books stowed away in libraries and late-night Google searches. Composites of the artist’s thoughts, his art is like a scrapbook of dreams and memories, some tightly woven and others loosely knit. All are trippy.

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How they manifest is usually in the form of his psychedelic illustrations, gradients of kaleidoscopic visions sliding from symmetrical to lopsided, whose narrative threads appear like a visual stream-of-consciousness, an acid-soaked vision of reality without recognisable constraints.


That means things like gravity, or even ‘logic’. It's the lack of the above that endows Hasni’s art with a spiritual quality. It isn’t earthly, nor does it try to be. Like our own consciousness, there often lacks a distinct idea of ‘sense’ in the way that we’d usually define it. This has an effect on our minds and, by extension, our bodies. It’s hard-wired into us to make sense of things, to draw a logical conclusion even when there appears to be none.

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Hasni embeds this effect in his pictures by forcing his audience to disengage with their usual critical faculties and re-engage with his art in a more open-minded state, kind of like how we’d read through a dream diary. It’s not new-age woo, just a nudge in the direction of the ancient knowledge that our minds are deeply complex machines and, sometimes, it takes a signal scrambling prompt, like Hasni’s art, to make us take stock of that.


Good art, ultimately, makes us think. That’s why it is often quoted as a precursor to scientific discovery. Art can make its aesthetic claims, free of the burden of proof, which science is later tasked with quantifying. What’s important to Hasni, to the evolution of art and science and all things that come with them, is to be curious, to maintain an enquiring mind. He does this by bringing dichotomous worlds together - the ancient and the modern, the real and the unreal, construction and deconstruction.

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