Govinda Sah 'Azad' at October Gallery

With the show as a whole and individually fresh in my mind, there is much to be said about both the placement and content of this stunning body of work by Nepal-born, London-based artist, Govinda Sah 'Azad'. As one of London's foremost, and few, spaces dedicated to showcasing international artists, primarily from non-Western backgrounds, October Gallery, WC1N, has an incredibly welcoming and accessible physical grounding, as it is part of a larger organisation renowned for its education programme. Tucked behind the busy hubbub of Holborn in central London, it seems a fitting location to showcase the contemporary art scene of the entire world, especially given the global network centre that is London. Sadly, the immense talent of international artists from non-Western countries is often overlooked by many galleries in both private and public sectors.

This in itself is a fact particularly incomprehensible when you see Sah's work in October Gallery's space. Images online and in its accompanying catalogue do not truly capture the haptic textures and wild emotion found in this work, and doing so is impossible, other than viewing them in the gallery. Each piece screams out for closer inspection, alongside a call to consider the different dimensions of the lived experience, far beyond human cognition, as is in line with the way Sah discusses his own practice. The gallery refers to him as "a painter of tempestuous skies and cosmic explosions...Sah is drawn towards the unknown".

Govinda Sah 'Azad', Just Hope, 2010. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 120cm x 100cm. October Gallery, London.

October Gallery is clearly a multi-use space, and this adds a new level of potency and binary to Sah's work, as there is certainly no doubt that the paintings and mixed media canvases as part of 'Boundless Possibilities' are most at home in the gallery setting. As the first painting the viewer encounters upon entering the room, 'Tactile Universe' sets the precedent for the exhibition perfectly, incorporating earthly patterns and textures with an intensity that suggests its own narrative. Using bright oranges and reds, Sah creates imagery that bears a resemblance to familiar matter such as earth and desert sand, yet the bold choice of colour in 'Tactile Universe' highlights the journey on which the artist himself is taking us, leaving archaic ideas behind.

Global warming is also on the artist's agenda in producing these paintings, as we regularly observe dynamic, almost violent, brushstrokes, perhaps most powerful in 'Melting Mountain'. With its self-explanatory title evoking the urgency of the Anthropocene epoch in which we find ourselves, the tranquil shade of blue is contrasted against these sharp, brisk paint marks in order to convey movement towards a changing landscape. Additionally as a colour evoking deep sadness, Sah's chromatic choices are equally fitting and powerful throughout the exhibition, and as such the works often exceed their physical confinements of the canvas and launch the viewer into a different space, with their filmic quality.

Govinda Sah 'Azad', Melting Mountain, 2016. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 76cm x 61cm. October Gallery, London.

Sah's motif-like use of the same, or similar, painting techniques and 'mixed media' ensembles creates a unity which makes the exhibition highly pleasurable to witness, as well as being succinctly organised in its presentation. However, clearly these ideas are used for different ends, such as with 'Night Sky', a truly beautiful, mellow piece, which incorporates minute beads to convey the night's stars, which catch the light from standing some space back from the painting. Again, the painting transcends the flat image with closer inspection, as with each work in the show. As a result I implore all London readers, and visitors, to see 'Boundless Possibilities' before 25 June.

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