Angela and Hossein Valamanesh

Artistic collaborations are intriguing – the act of creativity coupled with intimate partnership can be heady. It is one that Adelaide-based artists Angela and Hossein Valamanesh have mastered for decades.

Angela and Hossein met in the mid 1970s at the South Australian School of Art and have been living together since, sharing ideas and supporting each other in their endeavours to make art. Their creativity and work together has resulted in important commissions such as the Irish Famine Memorial (1999) a bronze sculpture at the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, 14 Pieces (2005) outside the South Australian Museum, and the Ginkgo Gate (2011) at the western entrance of Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens. While the artists share a studio, each has independently maintained a consistency of purpose and enduring confidence in their individual practice.

The show at Greenaway Art Gallery (GAG Projects), held in conjunction with the sixtieth anniversary of the Adelaide Festival, showcases each artist’s individual works. While Angela’s microscopically examine the connections within the natural world, Hossein’s works offer a restrained beauty, a minimal intervention of nature.

‘Our work is compatible,’ comments Angela. ‘It is fairly quiet in terms of colours and textures. Hossain’s mediums are sculpture, painting. I tend to work with ceramics, but we’re both intensely interested in the natural environment, its vulnerability, its fragility and how this manifests in the making of art.’

Angela began as a studio potter before her work evolved to become more sculptural. Her current touring exhibition with Jam Factory, ‘About being here,’ surveys her utilitarian ceramic objects and elegant clay forms that pay homage to the stellar work of Australian ceramicists Gladys Reynell and Gwyn Hanssen Pigott.

More recently Angela’s practice has been influenced by her doctorate Under the Microscope: Making art from science, which investigates images made using the earliest microscopes from the 1600s. Her work at GAG reflects this research, ‘I’m motivated by a continued fascination with the diversity of life forms, their similarities and differences, combined with the intuitive knowledge that as human beings we are all connected.’ Shades of Pollen: yellow to red (2019) and Once I was a teardrop (2018) are fine examples of her luminous microscopic forms, which breathe from the work’s surface and recall the beautiful drawings of pollen grains by botanical illustrator Ferdinand Bauer.

Intrigue with how science might influence art is also evident in her experimental three dimensional forms Dark Life 1 (2018) and Dark Life 5 (2018). These tapered ceramic objects are propelled by a radiant metallic sheen resembling that of car Duco, but in this context the shiny black glaze ‘recalls the qualities of insects that pollinate flowers, in particular orchids, and reveals how the plant and insect share certain characteristics,’ reflects the artist. It is an ambiguity further realised in the experimental visual interplay between figuration and abstraction.

Hossein’s work also reveals a playfulness in the ways he transposes a human element to his sculptural forms, such as in the larger elegant sculptureTakes Two (2017). The cool majesty of intricate twigs and branches in bronze is offset by the copper oil burners projecting light into the ether, an interplay of heaven and earth. It is this connecting and fusing of the physical and the metaphysical, the human and the universal, that underpins Hossein’s practice – influenced by the writings of Sufist mystic Rumi, along with features of Middle Eastern culture such as architecture and geometry. Hossein’s is an elegant art where aesthetics, form and meaning are one. The artist explains, ‘I attempt to create a feeling of equilibrium, an image of balance and tranquillity, a place for contemplation and dreams.’

Sense of place is a recurring exploration in the work of this Iranian-born artist, who trained at the School of Fine Art in Tehran before moving to Australia in 1973. His use of text in English and Farsi (Persian) attests to this. Charting connections and journeys, Tokamachi Samue (2019) is made from a map of the region in Tokyo, fixed to cloth and sewn to shape the samue, the traditional worker’s jacket. It was created on the occasion of both artists being commissioned to install their work Guardian (2018) at Australia House in conjunction with Japan’s Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale. ‘Angela was involved with the reading and research and I investigated the spatial qualities of the site,’ says Hossein, ‘Being an artist is a rather solitary life and it is wonderful to have someone to exchange ideas with before making them public.’

That both artists have evolved practices spanning more than forty years, and that they can work individually and together, attests to passionate dedication, discipline and consummate skill. Persistence in a volatile economic climate has been fundamental for the artists, as Angela reflects, ‘getting and maintaining viable commercial gallery representation is challenging because galleries keep closing, but we keep making new art!’ Angela and Hossein constantly look at the world and find something new to say – something that can only be said through the creation of art.

This preview was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 50, 2020

Angela and Hossein Valamanesh
26 February – 22 March 2020
GAG Projects, Adelaide

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