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Hossein Valamanesh

The lover circles his own heart  1993

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

210 × 210 × 210cm

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


About the Artwork

An upturned funnel of stretched silk, hovering above ground, softly hums as it spins on its axis. Its circular motion echoes the rhythmic dance and flaring skirts of the ‘whirling dervishes’, devotees of the Mevlevi Order of Sufism, who practise whirling as a form of physically active meditation, of remembrance of God and unity with the divine.

Through his installation The Lover Circles His Own Heart, Iranian-born Australian artist Hossein Valamanesh creates a space to consider the poetry and traditions of Sufism and their relevance to our lives. The work’s title is taken directly from a poem by the thirteenth-century Sufi poet, Rumi. Rumi was himself a dervish, and the Mevlevi Order was founded by his followers.

 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.

 Rumi, Fragments / Ecstasies, Translations by Daniel Liebert

 For Valamanesh, 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’.
Hossein Valamanesh, 2005

 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 notions of love and the myth of creation itself are explored.

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. 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.

Hossein Valamanesh, 2005

Hossein Valamanesh

– About the artist

Born 1949, Tehran, Iran. Lives and works Adelaide, South Australia.

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).

Selected solo exhibitions include GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide (2015); Angela and Hossein Valamanesh, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne (2014); Hossein Valamanesh: Selected Works 1992–2013, Grey Noise Gallery, Dubai (2013); In My Mother’s Hands, Grantpirrie Gallery, Sydney (2011); Time Travel: 1985–2009, Manning Regional Art Gallery, Taree (2010); Hossein Valamanesh, AMA Gallery, Helsinki, Finland (2009); Hossein Valamanesh, Turner Gallery, Perth (2008); and This Will Also Pass, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide (2007).

Selected group exhibitions include Jardins de bagatelle II, Galerie Tanit, Munich (2014); Heartland, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2013); Rose Issa Project, Art Dubai, Dubai (2012); Generations, Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong (2011); Ephemeral, Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Japan (2008); and Strange Cargo: Contemporary Art as a State of Encounter, Newcastle Art Gallery, NSW (2006). Major surveys of Valamanesh’s work were held at the MCA, Sydney in 2002 and Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide in 2001.

Valamanesh’s work is held in major Australian state and regional galleries, and in collections in New Zealand, Finland, Paris and Japan. A monograph on his work, Hossein Valamanesh: Out of Nothingness, was published by Wakefield Press in 2011; another, by Paul Carter, was published by Art & Australia in 1996.

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