Light upon light

Artist: Shirazeh Houshiary (Iran, born 1955; active United Kingdom)
Historical period(s)
Graphite and acrylic paint on canvas
H x W: 70 x 70 cm (27 9/16 x 27 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Provenance research underway.

Houshiary's work presents a subtle fusion of her interest in minimalism and involvement in Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, which advocates the annihilation of the Self as a means to enlightenment and divine love. Light upon light represents a gauzelike spiral with a bright, luminous core, reminiscent of images of distant stars and galaxies. While the visual impact of much contemporary art is direct and immediate, that of Houshiary's work, like a fine Persian calligraphy or manuscript painting, is gradual and subtle. It slowly draws in the viewer, inviting careful examination and quiet contemplation. Only then may he or she begin to realize that the spiralling form is entirely composed of the word Allah (God). Houshiary's mesmerizing work can be interpreted as a powerful visual parallel to the Sufi's quest for divine knowledge, which is attained by patience and understanding.

Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World, Contemporary Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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