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EYES THEY SEA by Syed Hosain

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 23, from 6-9 PM

Exhibition Runs: September 23 - October 29, 2023

EYES THEY SEA by Syed Hosain encompasses work created during a time of uncertainty, dislocation, and destruction of Hosain’s neighborhood, located a block away from the now infamous George Floyd Square. Concurrent with a raging pandemic disproportionately killing people of color, it seemed that many of society’s most egregious injustices were on public display. It was a time of monumental confusion and despair. 


The work reflects that time in history;  life, as we knew it, was turned upside down, where global and personal intersected. Hosain’s time in the studio was an attempt to escape and meditate his way out while simultaneously trying to capture the raw emotion of the moment. Subconsciously, the paintings reflected anxiety, a layering of complex yet unresolved ideas. This multilayered intentionality resulted in a distinct body of work straddling the line between abstraction and representation, where the symbolic overtones constituted a wilderness of metaphor and meaning. These experiments with color and composition collaborate with the medium, allowing the operation of chance to help determine a work’s final form. Hosain developed these ideas through a wide-ranging practice, incorporating and merging abstraction, portraiture, fantastical imagery, scenes from daily life, colonial histories, and cultural motifs, blending past, present, and future.


Syed Hosain's art explores unfixed histories, traditions, and constructions of Middle-East geography and his Muslim identity through painting.  Process and material-driven, Hosain builds up rich surfaces on canvas, creating a tension between recognition and obliteration. “I outline the ways Muslim artists, as cultural producers, are not only contesting art world boundaries in terms of new and emerging forms of identification but also the various sites where they are being forged,” said Syed Hosain. “While contesting negative stereotypes, I have also been reflecting on an imagined future for Muslim identity independent of social and political oppression and appropriation.”

He combines a rich foundation in the act of painting with found surfaces, like old encyclopedias and history books, reworking images with additive and subtractive layers of paint, obscuring factual information and imagery to highlight multiple readings and meaning of text and image. The chaos of existence becomes his palette. He is an avid collector and perceptive chronicler of Muslim subcultural vernacular and its role in constructing religious and social identity. In the last decade, he’s explored the politics of occupying space to develop a unique narrative involving densely layered imagery that inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration, shedding light on unwritten histories to decolonize visual vocabularies too often Policed by selective Eurocentric narratives.


In the last few years, the work has become less confrontational and more symbolic, embracing opacity and finding refuge in a long tradition of mining abstraction for liberation; the work aims to engage the viewer in a contemporary visual journey, deconstructing the act of seeing by recreating images that form part of collective memory. Hosain incorporates collage that functions as visual bait; the eye is drawn into the atmospheric spaces of their compositions before encountering a seemingly limitless number of associative openings, collaged primarily from National Geographic, depicting indigenous and people of color elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché. This extraction is an act of emancipation, freeing subject matter from its original context and repositioning it within a new aesthetic reality.


Syed Hosain was born in Pakistan and lives and works in Minneapolis, MN. Hosain received a BA and an MA from the University of Karachi, Pakistan, and an MFA from Vermont College of Art and Design. He has received several Minnesota State Arts Board Grants to support his art and has exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including the Walker Art Center, Jack Tilton Gallery NYC, and the University of Minnesota Morris. As an artist-teacher, he profoundly believes in the power of art-making as a mechanism of liberation and empowerment. He has been committed to bringing culturally sustaining pedagogical practice and healing-centered engagement across school spaces, especially in his native country of Pakistan. Hosain currently teaches at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

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