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Exploring Materiality as Embodied Rememberings

re.riddle’s Spring Program Features Artists Charlene Tan and Kamran Samimi

re.riddle - 1275 Minnesota Street Gallery. #204
"Warp / Weft" - Charlene Tan (April 5 - 30, 2024)
"Being Time" - Kamran Samimi (May 11 - June 22, 2024)

While divergent in their practices, artists Kamran Samimi and Charlene Tan connect in their continued exploration of materiality as embodied rememberings of ancestors. Each having a multicultural background, the artists endeavor to bridge the distance between themselves and their heritage. By imbuing their chosen materials with new structures of meaning, they challenge limiting perceptions of agency, and temporal and social spatialization.

The idea of remembering is further embodied through gesture, honoring a sense of intergenerational muscle memory and ancestral guidance within the artistic process. Tan, who is Filipina-Chinese-American, reinterprets traditional Filipino tribal weavings, mirroring her grandmother’s highly detailed work as a former weaver and seamstress. Samimi, who is Iranian-Norwegian and raised in rural Hawai'i, uses material found in nature to connect with ancestors — both human and nonhuman. His works manifest through the direct physical feedback from the material, guiding his hand in the art-making process.

Traditional cuisine and clothing are conduits for immigrants and second-generation communities to connect with their respective origins, honor their heritages, and foster a blended social ecology. This notion initiates Tan’s practice of reinterpreting traditional Filipino weavings, intertwining indigenous signifiers and generational craftsmanship with contemporary digital processes. Tan’s raw materials include foods and vivid pigments evocative of The Philippines, where she spent her formative years. The resulting works are large, immersive woven structures that highlight the meticulous practice of both her grandmother’s textile work and her own, representing a reconfiguration of the humble domestic labor of textile production.

Charlene Tan, Researching and Remembering (T'nalak, Ube), 2019
Ube (purple yam) powder, manganese violet pigment, acrylic paint, digital print, di-bond, aluminum. 59 x 43 1/2 in.

Tan’s exhibition "Warp/Weft" illustrates her endeavor to decolonize her own mindset, reclaiming the heritage she was encouraged to abandon upon immigrating from the Philippines to San Francisco. The works are multilayered, concentrating on themes of de-assimilation and resistance of colonial narratives, while also serving as vessels that capture rememberings such as sensorial aspects of childhood and recognition of her parent’s home regions.

By exploring the intersection between the metahistory of pattern design and the laborious physical act of weaving her chosen materials, these highly charged works reimagine possibilities for diasporic futures. This is reflected in "Researching and Remembering (Pink Tapioca and Turquoise), 2020-2024," where the artist’s use of tapioca pearls in her dense compositions results in a texture reminiscent of intricate beading, invoking her grandmother’s hand-beaded embroidery — a commonly overlooked painstaking manual labor that often defines the immigrant experience. As well as, Researching and Remembering (T'nalak, Munggo Beans), 2024, that references a tabi (blanket) from the Nikki Coseteng Collection, a highly recognized archive of Philippine textiles. The reinterpreted textile details a traditional Mindanao imagery of capturing a crocodile spirit, where mungo beans map out large diamond-shaped reptiles with hook-like forms called kumang.

Similar to Tan, Samimi has an enduring practice centered on utilizing natural ephemera to explore the intricate dynamics, tensions, and histories of human and nonhuman ancestors. His multicultural identity fuels his longing for a sense of place and understanding of his heritage. This informs his profound connection to nature, which he perceives as silent witnesses observing generations and absorbing the histories of their surroundings. In this context, objects of nature are our ancestors holding rememberings of boundless time.

Kamran Samimi's process reveals reciprocal gestures between his hands and those of nature.

As mortal beings, our collective tendency is to assign notions of birth and death to all organic matter without recognizing that nature is in a perpetual state of becoming, constantly fluid, and never fixed. In his exhibition "Being Time," Samimi challenges this conventional boundary of time, suggesting that it doesn't apply to natural materials like stones, wood, water, and land. He proposes that each of these elements possess inherent agency and animism, transcending the physical world to become vessels of the eternal. This underscores the artist’s belief that spirituality resides in all objects, whether animate or inanimate, visible or invisible, and that the eternal is only perceptible through communion with nature.

His new collection consists of site-specific stone impressions, large-scale stone sculptures, and mist paintings encapsulating the layered histories embedded within natural material from distinct San Francisco locations including Ocean Beach, Mile Rock Beach, Sutro Baths and Twin Peaks. The artist’s process reveals reciprocal gestures between his hands and those of nature as evident in his stone impressions that capture both delicate traces and bold marks on the canvas. In the same vein, his mist paintings evolve through multiple sessions of in-studio paint drips and exposure to the elements in a collaborative call-and-response process. The resulting static images challenge conventional ideas of permanence, decay, and finite life cycles by asserting the dynamic exchange between past and present. Ultimately, the works are a meditation on the interconnectedness of existence, ancestral stories, and the enduring spirituality held within the natural world.


re.riddle - 1275 Minnesota Street Gallery. #204

"Warp / Weft" - Charlene Tan (April 5 - 30, 2024)
In Conversation: Charlene Tan x Matthew Villar Miranda - Saturday, April 20, 2024, 11am

"Being Time" - Kamran Samimi (May 11 - June 22, 2024 )
In Conversation: Kamran Samimi and Kathy Zarur - Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 6pm


Main image:
Kamran Samimi, Mist Painting (Detail), Watercolour, Acrylic, Indigo pigment, India ink on raw canvas,  30” x 40” (101 x 76 cm)

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