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The National

Brute Ornament, Kamrooz Aram and Seher Shah

Installation view at Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2012

"Ornament" became a dirty word by the time the big thinkers of the early 20th century got into their stride.

The hornblower in this charge was the architect Alfred Loos - a notoriously intense man, who went as far as to equate decoration with deviancy. Anyone who dared to jazz up, spruce up or interfere with the perfection of simplicity was butting against the modern grain, according to Loos in his essay "Ornament and Crime".

Brute Ornament, in its last few days at the Green Art Gallery in Dubai's Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, explores this trajectory.

Putting Seher Shah together with the Iranian painter Kamrooz Aram is a marvellous match because the two couldn't be more different. Whereas Shah is adept at drawing ultra-detailed cityscapes in graphite, Aram can suspend a decorative image at the point of obliteration.

Shah's work is by far the more compelling here. In Emergent Structures: Capital Mass, we see a rectangle punctured by thousands of skyscrapers. A sphere floats above, seeming to bear down on this concrete jungle - like a sun drifting close to the surface.

With flowery motifs, Aram depicts "decorative" paintings that are slowly imploding. In Angelus Novus, for instance, flowers and murky colours seem to be sucked into a bright white void in the centre of the image, like a Big Bang waiting to happen. They're replaced by ethereal triangles and strange geometry.

It isn't all chin-stroking. Shah's works are mighty impressive, and Aram describes his paintings' power best: "I decided that a painting was finished when it started to hum."

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