Hossein Valamanesh Recent Arrival
According to the Museum of Contemporary Art Website, Hossein Valamanesh emigrated from Iran to Perth in 1973. Valamanesh works with different media from installation to sculpture, painting and collage. Inspired by personal experiences and memories, he uses ordinary objects and natural materials to create visual poetry that reflects on his life in Australia and his experiences of his birthplace, Iran.
He has completed a number of major public art commissions with artist Angela Valamanesh including Ginkgo Gate, a new western entrance to the Botanic Gardens, Adelaide (2011); 14 Pieces on North Terrace, Adelaide (2005); and An Gorta Mor, a memorial to the Great Irish Famine at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney (1999).
The Work of Art
In certain respects, Recent arrival could be viewed as semi-autobiographical given Hossein's personal history. The work of art was created and published in 1988 as part of 'The Land' portfolio of prints to mark the bicentenary of European arrival in Australia. This example is edition 54 of 80. It is an interesting image and one which has a clear place in the portfolio. As the name suggests, it is about immigration, uncertainty, new beginnings and so much more.
Again, according to the MCA, Hossein Valamanesh works across drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, as well as large-scale public projects and video . His art is characterised by its engagement with the natural world and its unique fusion of his Persian heritage with contemporary Australian life. Employing leaves, stones and earth alongside ordinary domestic objects – a rug, an oil lamp, slippers – it reflects themes of home, distance, longing and love, as well as the complexities of identity and place.
With its modest materials and economy of form, Valamanesh’s art has been aligned with the Italian artistic movement of arte povera (or ‘poor art’) and earth art. Earth Work (1981/2002), for example – a representation of the artist’s fingerprint in raised, oval whorls of compressed earth 10 metres in diameter on the front lawn of the Museum of Contemporary Art – reflected well his engagement with the landscape. Earth Work sought to explore individual identity within the wider scheme of nature and the notion of the artist’s creative ‘mark’.
Since his arrival in Australia, Valamanesh has forged lasting connections to the land. He has noted similarities between the Australian desert landscape and that of Sistan-e-Baluchestan, near his childhood home of Khash, suggesting a ‘common ground’ between his former and adopted homes. In 1974 he spent several months in the Aboriginal communities of Warburton in Western Australia and Papunya in the Northern Territory, working with artists there before settling in Adelaide in 1975. This was a particularly profound experience and he maintains an active interest in, and respect for, Aboriginal culture.
A longstanding interest in Persian poetry also informs Valamanesh’s art, reflecting themes of personal identity and spiritual enlightenment. Inspired by Sufism, an ancient and contemplative form of Islam, the verse of Jalaluddin Rumi (1207–1273) is particularly significant. Poetic references appear frequently in Valamanesh’s art, both in subject matter and title; on occasion they are given expression in Farsi script with its elegant, calligraphic sweeps and curls.