Something from Nothing - Dialogue with Hossein Valamanesh
by C. Kha
There is a photograph of a persian rug quietly burning in the Australian landscape. It's an enigmatic and powerful image, raising challenging questions around cultural heritage, migration and our relationship to the land we live in - that 'somewhere' we can call home.
This work holds a unique place in the development of VAAus. In 2011 Acme IRP held a special panel discussion, "There is No Global" in London. The panel drew out conversations around the impact of international residencies on Australian artists' practice and its affect, if any, on global perceptions about Australian art. Panelist, John Mateer, presented a series of slides of various art works, one of which was "Longing Belonging".
As the slides changed, I was reminded of the quality of work coming from Australia and I found myself missing seeing art exhibitions in Australia. Valamanesh was born in Tehran, Iran before migrating to Australia in the 1970s. There was something very moving about this piece that it made me feel that art coming out from Australia needed to be seen and experienced by an international audience. This then led to conversations around an online platform and eventually the establishment of VAAus.
'Breath' at Rose Issa Projects (28 May - 28 June) is Hossein Valamanesh's first solo show in London. What follows is a dialogue with the artist about the context of his works in 'Breath' and an intimate discussion around his art practice.
CK Where would you like to start?
HV Shall we start at the beginning? The name of the show and of this work.
It's my first show here in London and I decided to have a mixture of work which shows the breadth of my practice. The kind of gallery also determines the selection of the work and I've made 3 or 4 more pieces specifically for this show. And this I suppose is the largest work called 'Breath'.
It started when I was invited last year to do a piece of work for an exhibition which was mainly objects made of wood. Even though it represents the idea of wood, it is actually bronze. So it contradicts nature of materials and the nature of wood: trees, breathing and oxygen. That was the beginning of the work. Edition 1 will be touring Australia over the next 2 years.
CK So are there a series of other works in relation to this one?
HV It's an Edition of 6 works, and I've only made four of them. I'll go back home and make some more. This was a branch of a tree which had fallen down the street from us and I brought it home. It was about 2005 - I made another work called 'Fallen Branch' which had a similar idea, but it had one centre and it did not have any formality about it. This way I've actually used the same wax casting, but have created a new form. I was really pleased with it and the way it's working; it's about playing with the material of wood - realising you can't keep it that way... and then going through the process of casting.