After the Summer, the recently opened Alice Black Gallery hosted a group show of artists whose works circled around the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. Originating in Japan, this philosophy is based on the omnipresence of imperfection and the ephemeral. Not far off this reflective thinking is Alice Black's next offering - Adia Wahid's first solo show. Though far from being rooted in nature, Wahid is preoccupied with interactions between human experience and the technology of our mechanised world.
Using drawing as a starting point, Wahid's practice extends to painting, textiles and print-making. She commented on her tendency 'to work fluidly between processes, translating a drawing into different mediums and visual representations, revealing evidences of process and facture'. Drawing with Thread II 2012 seems to underpin this idea of translation accompanied by around 20 paintings. It spells out a reference to traditional weaving alongside plastic manufacturing. The bobbly yarn is stretched across a frame which mimics the weaver's loom and is tied to plastic thread. So both materials sit abreast in a cohesion of opposites and repetition, with the diagonal connecting horizontal and vertical.
Wahid spent her formative years in Pakistan where woven textiles are a familiar and almost obsessive part of the culture. When it comes to status, there is little distinction between hand made and machine produced fabrics which are often sold side by side. Though not exactly measured to weaving, Wahid's work seems to bridge this area between traditional craftsmanship and the technological prowess of machine production, particularly mindful of processing at the binary level.
Inescapable in today's globalised, digital setting is our interaction with the largely unseen binary system, itself an invention born of the punched cards used in weaving production. Unexplained, mostly transient surges and shifts in electric power cause glitches in microprocessing so that output is interrupted and corrupted. Wahid is compelled by the potential of these glitches as a medium for human presence and creativity. She explains that, despite technological advance, the 'human mind and body is analogue and able to assimilate varying stimuli producing emotions, awareness, consciousness all at the same time. We depend on machines but machine glitch affects all aspects of our lives. Visually they remind me of the loom when yarn breaks and disturbs the seamless pattern.'
Helped by its large scale, Walking on Jupiter's Moon 2017 appears to span weaving, painting, the personal and systematic application. The subtlety of slight variations in its background is overlaid by a flawed grid and the interaction of the two results in a gently undulating surface. Calm is somehow achieved through error and inconsistency.
With exception, most of Wahid's works utilise the grid. Kickstarted by the constructivists, the grid became the signpost of Western modernity particularly from the 1950s. However, Wahid shifts the role of the grid from a modernist framework to something more akin to liquid modernity, where change is the only permanence and the individual has infinite possibilities outside of traditional networks. Take Summer 2016 for example. With the reintroduction of oil paint, the work's layering process is much less controlled than its acrylic neighbours. Pockets of paint randomly fill the grid's squares to form an illusive pattern of uncertainty and continuum.
Recalling another exponent of the grid, Bunch Logic 2017 seems to open up Agnes Martin's horizontal panels and insert a vertical alternative so that the two directions play against one another in a resolve of shared dominance of the surface. The striped grids give way to more loosely painted lines as if providing a means of seeing, an obstruction to view through.
A gallery of these minimal paintings with their open interpretation and fine detail hints at a sense of constant humming. In discussion, Wahid explained she often listens to meditation music while working. This comes into play quite specifically in Background Noise 2017 where dynamic, angular processes connected with sound mechanics are set against the quiet support of the grid. It calls to mind Ada Lovelace (nee Byron), considered the first computer programmer who is much admired by Wahid, and her passion for the possibilities of numbers beyond quantity, including musical composition, as well as the informative importance of poetry and metaphysics.
While wabi-sabi defines our real world as the natural world, Adia Wahid's work asserts that the real world incorporates contemporary global, digital reality. As something of a nomad who has lived in Pakistan, USA, Singapore, South Korea and now London, her constant relocation has presumably demanded a dynamic approach to cultural and language translations, suggesting close symmetry with her art practice. This is heightened by her change of career from economist to artist and befits a gallery whose rota seems to link with today's self-driven, meditative attempts to feel contained within the enormity of globalisation.