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"EVERY EXPERIENCE THAT I’VE HAD IN MY LIFE SO FAR HAS ALTERED ME": URI ARAN'S 'ZERO POINT EVERYTHING' AT SADIE COLES HQ

"To me, there’s something about the individual enjoyment and one’s experience - in connecting points to prior knowledge and predisposing the social, cultural and visual nuances within."

As his latest exhibition zero point everything cat Sadie Coles HQ comes to a close, Uri Aran (American, b. 1977, Jerusalem) chats to Ella O Gorman about the show and its inspirations. Bringing together a diverse array of media, including drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, moving image, and photography, Aran’s work often blurs the boundaries between individual elements, establishing a rhythmic and poetic sensibility akin to the nuances of language and literature. Aran reflects on the art scenes in New York and London, the role of humor and nostalgia in his work, and how he continues to draw inspiration from both personal experiences and broader cultural contexts.


Installation shots courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ/Arthur Gray



Explain the concept and reasoning behind zero point everything. What was the intention behind the title, what exactly does it signify for you? 


The title zero point everything mirrors the organisation of the show. Each show of mine is like a chapter in an ongoing story that will hopefully develop, maybe not necessarily in a linear direction. It acts like a bridge, adding on, refining, blurring yet clarifying things that I care about. It represents a magnetic force that also leaves room for individual interpretation . 


So would you say that it acts as a continuation of narrative from your previous shows? 


Yes, it depicts thoughts and themes that I care about. Each show serves as a manifestation of my practice in general. I feature a sense of contradiction within my work- my work is completely individual, it is an individual practice but at the same time there are cultural and social intricacies present within it. I am only an artist and it is only my art so whatever is outstandingly important and significant in my life at the time of creation is what ends up materialising in the final result. The intentions are always immense and ambitious yet at the same time in light of the bigger picture, they can come into fruition while ultimately signifying ‘zero’ serious importance or meaning. So it delves into messages that are meaningful yet meaningless at the same time.In that sense there’s an existential attraction to the whole thing. 


I often lose myself in my work and in music, sound and gesture. Often I immerse myself in it but then doubt can seep in- that’s the alternate message behind [the show]; I give it everything but sometimes it can feel very daunting. I also use humour as a tool to imbue my work with a more magnetic and dynamic quality, to amuse and attract the attention of the viewer. 



How would you want the person viewing this exhibition to perceive it? Is there any particularly prominent message you wish to convey or response you wish to provoke? 


To me, there’s something about the individual enjoyment and one’s experience - in connecting points to prior knowledge and predisposing the social, cultural and visual nuances within. What’s really evident is my joy in both the aesthetics and the making of form. In my works selected specifically for this show, it is seen in words, sounds and the fusion of colours, rendered through simplicity yet maintaining its meaning .


What were your main sources of inspiration for this body of work and how did they influence you? 


A lot of this work was produced using post productive elements. For context: there was a very simple wall sculpture that I was working on, a piece of 2x4 wood that I wrapped in canvas. I found it to be very simple, yet it had an element of intrigue and amusement that appeared bigger than itself in a sense. It was full of pathos and substance so it posed great potential to me. Yet when I started to develop it further it didn’t work out and I was disappointed, that’s how I ended up using my phone and creating a visual record of the process. It was like lighting a match, the idea was super simple from beginning to end, yet it has an entire life cycle within. I referred to the title with this in mind- the meaning of nothing.


There’s something about the video that looks unedited and raw yet it is actually pretty heavily edited. I recorded it from my phone, played it on my computer and exported it to television. I was inspired and this experience was a first for me, exclusive to this show. This combination of art and image speaks volumes about my perspectives surrounding technology, art and how I seek to combine the two entities. I enjoy how I encapsulate a modern action in my recording yet once shown, it’s a past event. That’s where the metaphor of a match lighting and then being extinguished comes into play. 


From top to bottom: Uri Aran, Summary (in a few words), 2024,

Uri Aran, Oranges vs Them, 2020


My inspiration is similar in all shows- they carry an inherent sense of childhood, learning, education but most importantly drawing - it is the foundation of everything that I do. Drawing is everything in this show- both downstairs and upstairs. It is a medium that I use all the time. [I]n the downstairs segment of the show to try and replicate the feel of an artist’s studio, but not in an overt way. It is not a mimicry of the studio, it instead brings a sense of timelessness and escape. I create whilst doodling and creating spontaneously in my studio in anticipation of impending shows. Some doodles are intentional and others are simple sketches that I did in my spare time that transcend into something more. 


What are your predominant sources of inspiration? Are your works rooted in cultural context or informed by everyday experiences and exchanges? 


I usually observe and recognise the context that influenced my work retrospectively meaning that I make the work without realising what circumstances are impacting it until I reflect back on it after completion. Humor always runs through my body of work. A child's world also heavily features- a notion that is particularly prominent in my message of ‘acting out,’ the doodling and the nostalgic childhood symbols. I often take the architecture and typography of social situations take children doodling on tabletops in a classroom and I demonstrate this in my creations.


I think about this a lot and apply it to my thoughts encompassing childhood, humour and tragedy. Someone recently said to me that my show seemed like an end of year school art show. I agree, it’s so exciting showing everyone what you’ve completed. It’s also reminiscent of how couples have their own implicitly understood language, a silent form of communication. There’s an intensified intimacy that increases the more I show and with each one there’s more freedom to act out in the manner I wish. That’s what I find the most gratifying about my process: my ability to freely communicate with my audience.

Uri Aran, Want, 2024 [Stills] 


Do you find that your studies at Columbia and in Jerusalem impacted your approach to your vocation and your idiosyncratic manner of thinking and approaching art? 


Every experience that I’ve had in my life so far has altered me and has translated across my art in subtle ways. I’ve been an immigrant for the past 25 years and my studies in typography and in design have proven to be really useful when it comes to my art. I learned a lot from my peers and my professors also. Cultural politics and working in New York also shaped my work significantly. I made a home for myself there and it is a place where I feel artistically accepted and valued, which I appreciate. 


What is your stance on London’s art scene? Have you had pleasant experiences whilst showing here? 


I lived in London for a few months prior to the opening of this exhibition. I loved it so much - to display my work and to be a stranger in a specific place is such a privilege. It has been such an exciting and unique journey. [It's] involved so much more sociability and networking than I have ever witnessed in the US, everything feels more engaging and energetic here. The public and privately exhibited art here is so thoughtfully composed. The team at Sadie Coles HQ are all about collaboration and have been extremely attentive when it comes to expressing my vision. This level of support and personal consideration can be rare so it has massively contributed to my positive impression and appreciation of London’s art scene. 


From left to right: Uri Aran, This and more (from moi), 2024, Uri Arin, Uri Aran, Young Counting, 2024 


I really enjoyed your use of charcoal sketches, contemporary props (such as a music stand, synthetic cookies and brown paper packages) and your mix of minimalistic, monochromatic colour palettes when put into contrast against a more eclectic fusion of bold colours. You modulate between many mediums-- would you like to elaborate on why you chose these and what do you think they communicate when they are put in conjunction with each other? 


Well, the music stand is a good place to start: sometimes I teach and I frequently ask my students to bring various seemingly random objects to class. We peer at these objects and I offer them an exercise in which they have to recontextualise them and see how their objects can relate and interact to each other through art, to create a social construct or a feeling. This is similar to what I did through pairing and applying some baubles to a music stand. It lends it a slightly anthropomorphic value as well as a farcical sense of stupidity. It juxtaposes that element of beauty and ambiguity with the humorous ‘zeroness’- embodying the empty meaning that lends my show its title Zero point everything .


Installation shot courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ/Arthur Gray


The objects in this exhibition embody [a] childish curiosity, a longing for the innocent excitement of my youth. I was always fascinated by Sesame Street as a child, and the notion that synthetic hands were touching real food, here just I subverted that slightly. I used industrial and traditional materials to achieve my desired effect. Oils, pastels and wax were put on paper and drawings and my work in past construction heavily influenced my use of wood.


I tried to re-contextualise the tension between ‘before’ and ‘after’ and used isolated paper to achieve this, which was distributed between more completed, colourful paintings and portraits. This is mirrored in the format of the exhibition, in which you can observe the work in silence and in solitude or you can listen to the music played in the background and use it to enhance your experience. 


Installation shots courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ/Arthur Gray


As I mentioned previously, I include numerous anthropomorphic motifs into my work and in previous exhibitions I have worked closely with imagery related to dogs. I’m interested in the manner in which we relate and associate language and behaviours with things that don’t speak our language. That’s why I love art- it can communicate emotional intention and moral, resonant messages without speech. My work has an allegorical undercurrent and I really hope that people can pick up on these subtleties. 


As a versatile artist who works with such a wide ranging array of media featuring film, sculpture, drawing and assemblage. I would be interested to know what art materials and implements, in a hypothetical ‘desert island’ scenario, would you bring with you if you were allowed only three?


That is a very good question. I think my most beloved technique [to] create the broadest and most emotionally nuanced range of artwork, is drawing. It would be great to simply bring a pencil, a pen and some paper with me. Music is also essential to my process, its use is paramount. The marriage of music and art is a beautiful thing and I really appreciate how they can riff off each other. I occasionally draw in a rhythmic response to a song, I’m not limited to only interpreting its mood. I would like music on my island, to imbue my work with. 


What comes next? Do you have any aspirations or special projects planned in the near or far future? 


I have a show in Los Angeles with Matthew Brown coming up. The next show after that is set to be held in the Madre Museum in Naples early next year. I try my best to space out shows. If I’m fortunate enough to have projects on the horizon, I try to schedule them in a method that is best for my mental health and for the quality of my work. I’m still trying to practise and learn despite the unlearned ability showcased in some of my work, I’m still developing, and drawing from drastically different reservoirs of knowledge and inspiration. Rather than deducting from future shows by expounding valuable energy on obsessing on the faults of past work, I take each show as a lesson, a building block in terms of materials, practice and interpretations. There’s a thin line between trying to take control and losing it entirely. Zero point everything has played a fundamental role in this progression and I don’t take it for granted. Both it, and its location- London, have undoubtedly influenced my future work.


 

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