Kavi Gupta proudly presents Kour Pour: Familiar Spirits. For this, his debut solo exhibition with the gallery, Kour Pour created a new body of work conceived around the idea of family—not only that into which we are born, but the families we construct as our personal histories unfold.
Similar to his renowned Carpet paintings, which integrate visual components from Persian carpets, Pour's new paintings contain elements that reference both global art history and various interconnected cultural iconographies. The central motif in this new body of work is the tiger, an image that immediately suggests a range of art historical and craft traditions, but which is also a personal reference for Pour. 'My close friend, Phil Kim, has a tiger tattoo on his belly. Phil is Korean but was raised in Chile before moving to Los Angeles. We met in art school and immediately connected as the eldest siblings of our immigrant families. Although we have different cultural backgrounds, we found that we shared many similar experiences moving to the US and developed a kinship,' says Pour. There are thirteen unique representations of tigers in the exhibition, all sourced from historical ink paintings from China, Korea, and Japan. It is often difficult to trace the cultural origin of a particular image, as artists of one country would copy and integrate formal elements from the visual traditions of another. Whereas the facial expression of one tiger may appear stylistically Korean, its exaggerated posture could point to a Japanese source.
This ambiguity materialises in Pour's new 'Tsugigami Tiger' series. Utilising the eponymous Japanese craft tradition, which is similar to collage, Pour laid two prints atop each other—one made with white ink on black paper, the other made with black ink on white paper. Taking one sheet as a base image, Pour cut and tore elements from the second and carefully pasted them over the first, creating a layered surface reminiscent of a tiger emerging from a foggy landscape. Little Brother and Big Brother—the two largest works in the show—hang next to each other, like twin images.
Printed on Japanese kozo paper, each features a dramatic rendering of a tiger, similar in pose and positioning. The pairing of these two images invites viewers to further examine notions of originality crucial to Pour's practice. A series of 12 colourful tiger paintings presented side by side and wrapping two adjacent walls could be seen as a single work—a family of paintings. Each piece is also an individual, with each tiger expressing a unique emotional state. The colourful, seemingly abstract shapes floating on the surface were extracted from the underlying, block-printed images of the tigers and painted in a primary colour palette suggestive of the Bauhaus or early Modernist artists such as Joan Miró or Alexander Calder. Here, Pour continues to connect Western modernism to earlier, global art histories.
Some artists use words like appropriation or remix to describe the process of activating existing visual associations from art history and contemporary culture in their work. Pour prefers to use the word foster. 'Foster means taking care of something that isn't necessarily yours. It means nurturing something temporarily in your care,' says Pour.
To make the works in 'Familiar Spirits', Pour developed a new block printing process in his studio. 'I was looking for a surface that would allow me to make something like a woodblock print, but much larger,' says Pour.
'My uncle works with industrial materials and recommended scrap sheets of vinyl flooring.' Pour carved his foundational images into the vinyl and transferred them to paper and canvas, collaging or painting additional elements directly onto the print.
Pour was born and raised in Devon, South West England. His father was born in Iran and immigrated to England at age 14 during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Pour's mother was born in the UK and raised in the British foster care system. 'I romanticise that both of them were without family and home and created that together,' says Pour. 'I'm doing that in my studio. The works start from a personal space. I'm creating a home for myself and others like myself.'
Press release courtesy Kavi Gupta.