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ARAEEN, Rasheed; Chaar Yaar I (four friends)

Rasheed Araeen began his career developing abstract and conceptual works in Karachi, Pakistan, in the 1950s, before moving to London in 1964, where he created some of the pioneering works of British Minimalism. Chaar Yaar I (four friends) 1968 is an example of these early works and captures Araeen’s explorations of symmetry and form. Made using readily available materials, they were conceived as interactive modular forms that could be rearranged, a feature that distinguished them from the hard-edged, static minimalist art of the time. Lacking space or exhibition opportunities, these works were often documented and then dismantled, with several reconstructed several decades later.

In the 1970s, Araeen began to challenge the Eurocentrism of the art establishment. He addressed issues of racism and marginalisation, and he championed the role of minority artists within the mainstream canon. He also began a prolific writing and publishing career at this time, including founding the influential art journal Third Text in 1987. Through performances and conceptual experiments, his works of the 1970s and 1980s reflected his political views, which included a series of nine-panel ‘cruciform’ works that juxtapose symbols of Islamic culture and images of conflict in Islamic countries with Western icons and images from popular culture.

More recently, Araeen has continued his formalist inquiries with renewed energy, creating vivid works that recall the expressive energy of his early abstract works created in Karachi and the minimalist arrangement of his modular sculptures from his early years in London.