Teheran, Iran born 1949
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, collages, Lotus leaves on paper on plywood
Tehran-born, Adelaide-based artist Hossein Valamanesh’s Lotus vault builds on his persistent interest in shared spaces and cultural connections.
The large, contemporary work was inspired by the vaulted ceilings in the remarkable twelfth-century Jameh mosque in Isfahan, Iran, which Valamanesh visited while travelling with his wife and son. In a 2012 statement for Adelaide’s Greenaway Art Gallery, the artist recalled that, on looking up at the ceilings, he was first struck by the resonance between the fine geometry he saw and the patterning used by some Indigenous Australian artists in their work.
Valamanesh has long been influenced by Indigenous Australian art. He revealed in an interview with Ian North in 2011 that, having travelled to communities in the Central and Western deserts soon after emigrating in 1973 and witnessing artists painting at Papunya, he was impressed by the ‘simplicity of the method used for such remarkable achievement’. Valamanesh adopted the style and motifs of dot painting—having sought permission from the artists—to render Conference of the birds 1974, which is based on the poem of the same name by famous twelfth-century Iranian poet Farid al-Din Attar. This was the first painting Valamanesh made in Australia and was an early marker for the ongoing alliance in his work between his own Persian heritage and Indigenous Australian art and culture.
Over five meters in length, Lotus vault is composed of meticulously hand-cut, dried lotus leaves collaged onto paper. This use of lotus leaves extends Valamanesh’s investigation into the aesthetic and evocative qualities of the natural world. Significantly, the lotus plant has species native to both Iran and Australia, paralleling the aesthetic connections that Valamanesh perceived at the mosque. In the work, impeccably assembled concentric lines create an illusory effect of depth and grandeur in space. The dimensional suggestion of architectural space coexists with a suggestion of an aerial perspective, recalling the fine, lineal abstractions of land made by Aboriginal artists in the desert regions. In this way, Valamanesh refers concurrently to the religious architecture of Islam and the Indigenous Australian concept of sacred topography.
Lotus vault subtly takes up strands of influence and inspiration, eloquently signalling points of connection between seemingly disparate cultures, gently dissolving boundaries of difference.
This is a major work by Valamanesh and was purchased thanks to the generosity of Susan Armitage, who has assisted the Gallery in acquiring numerous contemporary South Australian works of art over the years.
Jacqueline Chlanda Assistant Curator, Australian Painting and Sculpture
in artonview, issue 76, Summer 2013