Shirazeh Houshiary was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1955. She studied at Chelsea School of Art, London from 1976–79; from 1979–80 she was Junior Fellow at Cardiff College of Art. Shirazeh Houshiary currently lives and works in London.
She has had solo exhibitions at Magasin-Centre national d’art contemporain, Grenoble (1995), University of Massachusetts Amherst (1994), Camden Arts Centre, London (1993), Musee Rath, Geneva (1988), and in 2013 her exhibition Breath was a celebrated Collateral Event of the 55th Venice Biennale. Major group exhibitions include the 40th Venice Biennale (1982), the Kiev Biennale (2012) and the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010). She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1994.
Houshiary’s sculpture is rooted in the mysticism of Islamic culture, particularly the poetry of Jalaluddin Rumi, a thirteenth–century Sufi mystic. Sufism centres on the quest for self–knowledge, its name meaning ‘the path’ or ‘the way’; this is the essence of Houshiary’s work. Art is a journey of discovery located in the realm of the imagination, which she describes as “the creative force of the universe’. Houshiary believes that an artists role is that of unveiling the invisible rather than producing commodity objects.
Houshiary produces work in a range of different materials including copper, zinc, steel, brass, tin, mud and straw. Frequently, she makes reference to the four elements: earth, fire, wind and water. She also attempts to convey the idea of himma or ‘energy’ in her sculpture. Initially, her work was biomorphic in form, but over time has become more geometric. This serves to emphasise the elemental beauty of materials, but also to strike a universal chord across cultural boundaries.