1949 - 2022, Tehran, Iran
Lives and works in Adelaide, Australia
Hossein Valamanesh’s work is comprised of a myriad of elements to create enigmatic installations, sculptures and video works. With elemental substances, natural materials, and found objects, Valamanesh explores notions of an essential connection to place, the nature of being, and the ephemerality of existence.1
Described as deceptively simple, disturbingly beautiful, enigmatic, Valamanesh’s work continually references the idea of a non-existent homeland: a place at once nowhere and everywhere. With connotations of longing, belonging, community, voyage, and identity, Valamanesh’s work is highly influenced by the writings of Rumi and his encounters with the world.2
“I think my art is about not separating elements such as aesthetics, content and form from each other. The interconnectedness of these elements in the work is important,” states Valamanesh. This assessment reads clearly in the artist’s works, which display a mix of visual languages and signifiers that speak to relationships between nature and culture, and the space between places with refinement. Through oblique and discernable references to both his homelands, Valamanesh communicates with ardor what it is to live forever precariously balanced between two places.3
Hossein Valamanesh was born in Tehran, Iran in 1949 and currently lives and works in Adelaide, South Australia. Valamanesh completed his education at the School of Fine Art in Tehran (1970) and the South Australian School of Art, Adelaide (1977).
Valamanesh has participated in many solo and group exhibitions including: Char Soo, Adelaide Film Festival, Samstag Museum, Adelaide (2015); Hossein Valamanesh: Selected works 1992-2013, Grey Noise Gallery, Dubia, UAE (2013); and Australia, Royal Academy of the Arts, London, England (2013). Valamanesh’s work is held in many significant collections in Australia including the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the Nationally Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
“Most works of art have within them the seed of an idea and the opportunity of exhibiting them may make it possible for these seeds to grow in the viewers mind with different interpretations. My original idea is only the beginning and I also follow the development of the work with interest. It is by our looking at the works that they realise their potential.”
(excerpt from Artist statement, 2005)
Thomas, Sarah. Hossein Valamanesh: A survey. Art Gallery of South Australia, 2001, pp. 8, 12.
Knights, Mary and Ian North. Hossein Valamanesh: Out of nothing. Wakefield Press: Kent Town SA, 2011, p. 11.
Severi, Hamid. “Valamanesh and translocality.” Broadsheet, 43, 2014, p. 54.
Hossein Valamanesh’s works make poetry of existence, nature, place and time - arranging natural elements – branches, seeds, foliage, bark, wood, earth, ladders and found objects from domestic life – in refined, compositions. There is a high degree of finish and neatness that can sometimes deflect the actual latent emotional content inside. His corpus is infused with gentle humanity. Artists who have followed his career speak of each new show being like an episode of a major epic poem cycle, part of a continuous whole. He has produced major public sculptures in collaboration with Angela Valamanesh and worked in several fields including set design and more recently video.
In Art Monthly (Oct 2017), Andrew Purvis writes: another refrain of Valamanesh’s practise is the entangling of his two homelands, juxtaposing the intricate ornamentation and patterning of Islamic art with natural elements sourced from his (Adelaide) garden and surrounding suburbs.
ARTIST STATEMENT -
This exhibition is composed of a selection of recent works that have evolved from my pre-occupation with ideas and images of maps, Farsi text, architecture and natural materials.
The woven map in Where do you come from? 2013, weaves an upside down world into our usual view of the world and makes it possible to be in two places at once although one may be hidden. The other map work Where do I come from? 2013, uses the landmasses of cut up maps to inscribe a line of a poem by Rumi that has a more non-geographical yearning for home and place of belonging. I have used the second line of a larger poem and below is a translation of the first two lines:
Everyday I meditate upon this, and every night I groan
Why is my own existence to myself the least known?
Whence have I come, why this coming here?
Where to must I go, when will my home to me be shown?
Architecture of the Sky, 1 & 2, 2014 is based on brick patterns of the vaulted ceiling in a mosque in Isfahan.
Hasti Masti, 2015 plays with two Farsi words that are similar in sound and connected in meaning, Hasti meaning existence and Masti intoxication. The two words have been extensively used in Persian poetry with many different connotations.
Breath, 2013, has evolved from an earlier work, Fallen branch, 2005, a circular interconnection of branches cast in bronze that was made from the branch of a tree I found in our street. Breath is reminiscent of the bronchial branches of the lung while still remaining like branches of a tree that could have produced the oxygen we breathe.
'In each breath we take there are two gifts.
The air that fills our lungs prolongs life.
Giving that air back to the world refreshes the soul.
For each one of these Gifts, each time we receive it,
We must give thanks.'
Extract from Saadi's Gulistan, 1259 AD, Shiraz, Iran
In this beautiful verse Saadi asks us to thank God. However, I think we should thank nature, forests and trees.
Hossein Valamanesh, February 2015
ARTIST STATEMENT -
This exhibition is a collection of new works made over the past eighteen months. I have found that shifting from one material to another and exploring different ideas is both challenging and exhilarating.
Lotus vault, 2011, and two other smaller works were inspired by a special room in the Jameh mosque, a magnificent 12th century building in Isfahan, which I visited while travelling in Iran two years ago with Angela and our son Nassiem. I came across a series of five vaulted brick ceilings and my first reaction was that there were similarities to some indigenous Australian art. I have reproduced these brickwork patterns in lotus leaves and in the smaller works in natural ochres. The works allude to the universality of geometry and pattern. I also thought about the state of mind of the builders of these magnificent ceilings.
The image for In my mother’s hands, 2011, was found in my cousin’s family photo album. Although I remember the photo from my earlier years I had not noticed the hands that stopped me from falling over. By colouring them I have emphasized the connections to mother and mother-land.
Passing time, 2011, is a video work made in collaboration with Nassiem. The work is an image of my hands and fingers continuously forming and reforming the infinity sign. The black box with its well-like cone is an integral part of the work. It allows the viewer to see the work from different angels and creates a sense of intimacy.