Hossein Valamanesh comes full circle

A new SALA exhibition celebrating the 40-year evolution of Hossein Valamanesh’s artistic practice features one of his most ambitious installations yet.

Hossein Valamanesh has worked in a range of media including, sculpture, installation, video, drawing and painting, fusing his Iranian heritage with contemporary Australian life. For this year’s SALA Festival, ACE Open presents the artist’s latest solo exhibition, In Love, which is also part of their South Australian Artist Commission series.

In some ways this exhibition signifies a full circle for Valamanesh. His first exhibition in 1977 was held at what was known then as the Experimental Art Foundation (EAF), later AEAF, and now this very ambitious exhibition, celebrating how far his practice has evolved, is showing at ACE Open (an amalgamation of the AEAF and the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia). While the organisation has evolved from what it was in 1977, so too has Valamanesh’s practice.

In Love features one of Valamanesh’s largest and most ambitious works in recent years, the installation piece Enter alongside a two-channel moving-image work, Passing, (2014), which hasn’t been shown in Adelaide before. Enter is a translucent maze made of frames and see-through gauze, with the word eshgh (love in Farsi) printed repeatedly across the fabric.

Hossein Valamanesh

“It’s the idea of entering a space that is full of love. The word love is repeated over and over again so it becomes like chanting,” explains Valamanesh. “I am able to create a field of colour and rhythm; and by positioning the viewer within an immersive environment, the word becomes a chant or an act of wishful thinking.”

The installation is driven by Valamanesh’s desire to explore what it would feel like to be immersed in a space full of love. “I was thinking about the work Enter and about why I wanted to do it,” says Valamanesh. “I wanted to see what it feels like, entering this space. Maybe it will be overwhelming, maybe not.”

“I am able to create a field of colour and rhythm; and by positioning the viewer within an immersive environment, the word becomes a chant or an act of wishful thinking.”

Passing was created in 2014 but it was conceptually developed in 2006 when Valamanesh travelled to Japan and went to Osorezan, an ancient site of major significance to all religions practiced in Japan. It is considered an in-between-place, purgatory, where all souls gather before passing to the other world. Visitors to the site write the names of the recently departed on stones and leave them in a pile, creating a shrine.

While Valamanesh was travelling back from Osorezan he was inspired to create the video component of Passing. He was on a local one-carriage train where you could see where you were going but you could also turn around and see where you were leaving from, like purgatory, where you couldn’t get out, but you could see life going on around you. He had initially hoped to film the work in Japan but couldn’t get approval so ended up filming it in the Yarra Valley, Victoria.

Hossein Valamanesh in collaboration with Nassiem Valamanesh, Passing, 2014, 2-channel video projection, 14 minutes, Edition 5 + 2 AP, Collection of Edith Cowan University (Photo: Eva Fernandez)

In its presentation at ACE Open Passing, will consist of a 14-minute video showing where you are going and what you are leaving behind, filmed simultaneously and projected at opposite ends of the room. In the centre of the room there will be a pile of stones, each one with the name of someone, could be anyone, who has passed.

Valamanesh says: “I hope that the two moving images and the empty space of the installation evoke a sense of an in-between-place, like now, a bridge between past and future and the ever-presence of death, and passing of life.”

ACE Open’s South Australian Artist Commission has allowed Valamanesh to broaden his practice to incorporate an immersive form and realise this ambitious project. The opportunity is fundamental to his future creative output.

Hossein Valamanesh: In Love
ACE Open
August 8 – September 28
aceopen.art

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