Teheran, Iran born 1949
Collection Title: Practice
Page: collection record
Place made: Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Tohoku-chiho, Aomori prefecture, Japan
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, paper; salt; saffron painting with pigment of saffron ground with salt in water Support: paper
Love is a complex concept yet the word flows off the tongue so easily. For Hossein Valamanesh it is a ‘loaded word … beautiful to use … and an inspiration for life’.1
In his quietly contemplative work Practice 2006, Valamanesh has translated the word love into Farsi, his mother tongue, and, using saffron ground in water and salt, has painted the word eshg in calligraphic script on paper over and over again, like a ritual of meditation, to form an enormous shimmering circle.2 The centre of this circle glows with a deep yellow richness and as the saffron is diluted, the script floats to the rim of the circle almost disappearing into space.
Iranian born, Valamanesh studied at the School of Fine Art in Tehran and continued his art practice in South Australia, where he has lived and worked since his arrival in Australia in 1973. An abiding fascination with the methods and materials of his craft underlies all Valamanesh’s work. He has always preferred to use the materials of nature and, over time, saffron, with its inherent colour and richness, has become a fascinating medium. Valamanesh loves cooking (and eating) and speaks with enthusiasm of the enhancing qualities of saffron in food preparation.
When undertaking a residency at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre in northern Japan in 2006, Valamanesh reflected on the notion of the ephemeral in life and art and considered the concept of painting a large calligraphic image with saffron on the gallery’s wall. This idea had arisen from a residency earlier that same year, where he experimented with writing the word ‘love’ in saffron on thin lavash bread, which was to be consumed by viewers. In preparing for this installation, he painted with saffron on paper and noticed just how beautifully the saffron absorbed into the paper.
In Japan, the wall painting did not take place because the surface was unsuitable. Sheets of thick white Arches watercolour paper, however, were available so he chose instead to paint over twenty sheets, working four at a time over several months to eventually create Practice.
We do not need to know the meaning of the Farsi script, to appreciate this visually alluring work; however, when it is revealed, we are reminded of the complexity of love and that we must practice to understand its true meaning.
Curator, Australian Prints and Drawings
1 This article is based on a floor talk given by Hossein Valamanesh at the National Gallery of Australia, 14 October, 2007, to coincide with the Gallery’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
2 Saffron is derived from the dried stamens of the crocus flower (Crocus sativus).
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra