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Hossein Valamanesh

The lover circles his own heart 1993

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with the assistance of Gene and Brian Sherman , Reg and Sally Richardson and the artist, 2005

silk, electric motor, foam, brass rod, stainless steel cable, wood, poem

H 210 W 210 D 210cm
H 49 W 18cm

About the Artwork

Hossein Valamanesh emigrated from Iran to Australia in 1973. He graduated from the School of Fine Art and Painting in Tehran in 1970 and once in Australia began further studies, graduating in 1977 from the South Australian School of Art. Valamanesh’s work is influenced by his position as an Iranian-born Australian and deals with the common ground between cultures as well as aspects of displacement and travel. Philosophy and spirituality are also essential to his work, particularly the poetry and traditions of Sufism.

Through his installation The lover circles his own heart, Valamanesh creates a space to consider and express emotion. This work draws its influence from the whirling dervishes and takes its title directly from the work of 13th century Sufi poet Rumi. The lover circles his own heart follows the Sufi tradition in seeking to escape logic and embrace love. As the complexity of existence and the all-consuming nature of love are addressed, Valamanesh allows a sense of contemplative wonder to be revived and for a time rationality and reason can be suspended as the notions of love without logic and the myth of creation itself are explored.

“We came whirling
Out of nothingness
Scattering stars
Like dust

It sunders
All attachments

Every atom
Turns bewildered

Beggars circle tables
Dogs circle carrion
The lover circles his own heart” (1)

Artist Statement

The concept of the work connects with Rumi’s poetry, and while I’m interested in the philosophy of Sufism, I don’t follow it as a practice. I find the poetry more inspirational rather than as a guide or philosophy of life. So, although, I am inspired by it and my life is affected by it, I wouldn’t call myself a Sufi or a follower of that teaching.

The poetry describes how everything is in perpetual motion: every atom turns bewildered, every star going around the earth moves and in that sense, the idea of change and time passing is very much part of that concept. And I feel that this is the way we are connected together, that we are not alone in this madness.

The poem alludes to the stars and atoms going around, to a dog circling a table looking for bits of meat that may fall to the ground, and to a lover who circles his own heart. Being an artist you are like a lover – a bit crazy, circling your own heart, with the desire and madness possessing your being.

The poetry of Rumi to which this work alludes, is rich with questions, expanding on the idea of love which, in itself, is not an answer. It’s a question making us wonder what is all this about?


Quotation: Hossein Valamanesh, Artist’s Voice Series 1, MCA, Sydney, 2005

(1) Rumi, ‘The lover circles his own heart’, Rumi, Fragments, Ecstasies, Daniel Liebert (ed and trans), Source Books, Santa Fe, 1981, p 11

The concept of the work connects with Rumi’s poetry, and while I’m interested in the philosophy of Sufism, I don’t follow it as a practice. I find the poetry more inspirational rather than as a guide or philosophy of life.

Hossein Valamanesh, 2005

Hossein Valamanesh

– About the artist


Hossein Valamanesh is a visual artist who 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 earlier experiences of his birthplace, Iran.

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