The new commission by Carwan Gallery is a reflection on the link between India Mahdavi’s work and the erasure of colour from classical art and architecture. The challenge given to Mahdavi was to reinvent her most iconic objects and translate them into a ‘contemporary error’ of art history by removing colour from them, resulting in achromia — which lends the exhibition its title.
This counter-intuitive gesture generates a new perspective on her work, just like the erroneous colourlessness of Ancient Greek temples and statues changed our perception of how they were meant to be experienced. The appearance of Mahdavi’s objects changes as soon as their colour is taken away, immortalising them in a ‘historic error’ of interpretation. They underline this specific historic negation, meditating — through its absence — on the power of colour, how it conditions our perception of space, and its psychological impact.
Mahdavi’s virtuosity with colour sometimes overshadows her way with form. One of the aspirations of this commission is to also reveal the formal qualities in her work — an exercise that Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, Carwan’s founder, almost imposed on the designer over a whole year of negotiations, pushing her towards a completely new avenue of experimentation that is an essay on the significance of colour. In her work in general, Mahdavi’s approach emerges from a constant research of light revealed by her association of colours and textures. As such, the intervention on the objects designed for this series followed the idea of capturing light — as in the way the grooves on a doric column catch the light — emphasising new textures and sculptural details.
The series of objects is composed of signature pieces designed by Mahdavi over the past two decades, ranging from the iconic Bishop series to the Alber and Diagonal tables, executed in marble. This unique new expression of them being colourless unveils each object’s true lines and geometries. All objects are carved in Pentelic marble, a material chosen by sculptors and architects throughout history for its excellent quality and its white colour that has a golden sheen when hit by sunlight.
© Thierry Depagne