Something from Nothing - Dialogue with Hossein Valamanesh
HV This is another small group of work I started last year. I have worked with maps a little bit before. I made a work in 2002 of maps I bought in Switzerland and I made a shirt out of one. Last year I was asked if I had that work available and I said, no I don't have it and that I would think of new work for him. I designed this particular work, a smaller version of it. The idea was to take two world maps, cut them in strips and weave them together. One being upside down and inside the other. In the end it's not true of the world - it's one of the world.
Whilst I was working on this, I started thinking about the next piece, "Where do you come from?" Trying to find out where people come from: our culture, country and place of birth has become quite confusing. In one sense it sometimes it's important, but sometimes it's not. People happen to be born somewhere… such is life.
I thought whilst I was working on that, this is a very beautiful old poem by Rumi, an 18th century mystic poet. He was born in Afghanistan but mainly lived in Turkey. This poem is often in my head:
"Where do I come from? What is the the purpose of my coming? Where am I going? Won't you show me my home?"
It's a longing for a place. An understanding of your being where you stand. It's not a map, it's not actually a country or a place. It's a place in the heart. I'm still trying to find home.
CK I think a lot of us are.
HV That's my level of search in a sense. There's also a bit of pun in play with that poem.
I've basically cut three maps into 2 cm squares, then separated the sea, islands and land. I used them as colour… but they're all upside down, back to front. And then made new bits of land to fill in gaps. But it's a one line from the poem. A very beautiful poem. A whole world made of words.
CK It's a very beautiful piece actually. I think it would probably resonate with a lot of people, especially migrants. We travel a lot more these days and we move around quite a lot, especially Australians.
HV And sometimes you feel more at home somewhere other than where you live. I don't feel at home in Iran anymore, I feel very much at home in Australia. And of course it's where your family, where you wife is, where your children are. It's those belongings that connect you to a place. Both my parents passed away now in Iran and I sort of lost that connection. Especially when my mother passed away, I felt something severed, almost like an umbilical cord.
CK As artists, we're always working towards ideas. It's a bit like the ladder work - art is much like that; you're constantly doing these little things and you're hoping to reach… that 'somewhere'.
HV Art is very much like that… the process is really important. Crafting the objects, is a pleasure for me. The best part of my day is making. Of course you get tired but you stop and you start again. The actual act... it's your own work.
CK Do you ever struggle to come up with ideas?
HV Of course... it's seasonal. But then again that's when I feel like you need to breath in. You take your time… you take that opportunity to take it in and let it be. When I was a younger, I would probably panic a bit. But then suddenly everything happens. Life goes on and things quieten down. And then suddenly everything gets busy. The ideas are there. Sometimes you don't necessarily need many new ideas. You're re-examining the general, basic state of mind that you're in… You revisit and you represent it in a new way. It's like asking it the same question over again. And then every now and then you go on tangent and then come back again, onto the path as it were.
CK Do you ever feel like the journey of an artist is almost like a mystic in some ways?
HV Yes or also like a research scientist - you're not sure what the answer is, but you have to go through the process of doing it - making it. My work is not so analytical - in the sense that I have a feeling about it… but the emotional impact the work will create won't be given to me until the work is finished. Of course each person would be different.