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Altoon Sultan
 October 18 - November 16, 2014

Altoon Sultan’s paintings are small-scale, near abstractions of the machinery of agriculture.  The close-up, intimate views are based on photographs. Finely painted in rich and saturated colors in a strong light, the imagery is pared down to essential lines, shapes and shadows.  The artist notes that her simple forms are precisely rendered “less to make things realistic than to make them present, and to achieve an uncanny sense of tactility.” While Sultan has painted exclusively in egg tempera on panel since 2002, this new body of work is executed on parchment and was inspired by a manuscript painting exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum in 2010.  Sultan was attracted to the smooth and sensuous surface of parchment, as well as the clarity and color in the intimate work, which, like her own paintings, demand close engagement.
The exhibition includes colorful drawings on paper, again inspired by a museum visit, this time to the newly re-installed Islamic wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sultan was compelled by the richness and complexity of the patterns in the decorative objects and purchased Daud Sutton’s book, Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry.  She was attracted to a particular sacred pattern of six overlapping circles surrounding one, which refers to the six days of creation.  The resulting drawings are an ongoing investigation into the seemingly infinite variety of shapes and patterns found within this matrix.    
In 2005 Sultan learned rug hooking to create some home furnishings for her Vermont farmhouse.  She found she enjoyed the handwork but also that the loops of wool acted almost like directional brushstrokes and that the pieces possess a solidity akin to relief sculpture, inspiring her to create textile artworks.  Again, an exhibition proved seminal, in this instance a show of Tantric drawings at the Drawing Center.   She was drawn to the pared-down abstraction in the works that, while modernist in feel, are actually objects of spiritual meditation.  When Sultan began to execute her own geometric abstract works in wool, she found an ease in creating different, and sometimes irregular shapes.  Sultan thinks of this body of work as her homage to 20th-century minimalist abstraction.
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