Iranian sculptor and installation artist, active in England. She left Iran in 1973 and studied at the Chelsea School of Art, London (1976–9), then was a junior fellow at Cardiff College of Art (1979–80). Although she settled in London and was often bracketed with a group of young British sculptors, including Anish Kapoor and Richard Deacon, her work was distinguished by the interpretation of a Persian cultural background through Western sculptural language. Her early work consisted of allusive environments and biomorphic sculptural forms, demonstrating an attempt, echoed in later work, to embody spiritual concepts physically. As it developed, her work became more autonomous, austere and concerned with materials that could symbolise a spiritual transcendence of materiality. The drawings Dancing around my Ghost (graphite and acrylic on paper, 7 parts, each 1.0×1.0 m, 1992–3; London, Lisson Gal.) consist of delicate geometric patterns constructed with Arabic words, evoking Islamic architecture and calligraphy. The sculpture Isthmus (copper and aluminium, two parts, 3.4×2.2×.9 m, 3.4×5.0×.9 m, 1992: London, Lisson Gal.), an aluminium-clad box lined with copper, large enough for a person to enter, suggests spiritual transcendence in a more imposing manner. Although Houshiary derives inspiration from Sufi doctrines, such as the interdependence of unity and multiplicity, her work is intended to symbolise a universal quest for spiritual union. Conterminous with this is a criticism of the dualisms of Western philosophy, as well as the cults of individuality and originality that dominate Western art practice.
Shirazeh Houshiary (exh. cat., Geneva, Mus. Rath; Oxford, MOMA; 1988–9)
Shirazeh Houshiary: Dancing around my Ghost (exh. cat., London, Camden A. Centre.; Dublin, Hyde Gal.; 1993–4)
Shirazeh Houshiary: Isthmus (exh. cat., essay by J. Lewison; Grenoble, Magasin-Cent. N. A. Contemp; Maastricht, Bonnefantenmus; Munich, Villa Stuck; 1995&dash6)
10 December 2001