Pre­view: An­gela Vala­manesh, by Lucy Stranger


SPEND­ING HER TIME EX­PLOR­ING rare sci­en­tific books in li­brary archives and col­lec­tions, An­gela Vala­manesh is fas­ci­nated by bi­ol­ogy and dis­cov­er­ing the things that make and con­nect us. Re­spond­ing to his­tor­i­cal sci­en­tific illustrations of anatomy and botany, and man­i­fest­ing them into ce­ram­ics and paint­ings, her works are a very hu­man re­sponse to the ar­chive of sci­en­tific his­tory. Vala­manesh’s re­cent work draws from the last two years, in­spired by a re­search project at the Barr Smith li­brary at Ade­laide Univer­sity. Search­ing for sci­en­tific illustrations in col­lec­tions has been an on­go­ing fo­cus of her prac­tice. Prior to the Ade­laide res­i­dency she trav­elled for a month-long res­i­dency at the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion, Wash­ing­ton DC in 2015. Drawn to the mi­cro and macro forms iden­ti­fied in sci­en­tific the­ory, Vala­manesh says, “The things that I’m in­ter­ested in are the things that con­nect us. I be­came re­ally in­ter­ested in evo­lu­tion­ary bi­ol­ogy, and the im­ages that were drawn with the first mi­cro­scopes are a part of that evo­lu­tion of our knowl­edge. The draw­ings them­selves are skil­ful and beau­ti­ful but they also have this con­tent that I feel con­nected to.” While the clin­i­cal na­ture of sci­en­tific ob­ser­va­tions can be dis­missed as hold­ing lit­tle par­al­lels to the sub­jec­tive na­ture of art, Vala­manesh finds some­thing in­her­ently hu­man in their in­ter­est, say­ing “they are want­ing to clas­sify, sort, name and or­der but there is this cu­rios­ity that is present in all sci­en­tific en­deav­our as in artis­tic prac­tice.” The ce­ram­ics and paint­ings that re­sult evoke this shared cu­rios­ity, as Vala­manesh plays with pat­tern and form to cre­ate new works that blur the line be­tween rep­re­sen­ta­tion and ab­strac­tion. The view­ers are left to make their own dis­tinc­tions. In the new se­ries of works Vala­manesh presents a se­ries of earthy or­ganic ce­ram­ics

along­side a se­ries glazed in bold blacks and yel­lows. “They are quite dif­fer­ent from work that I have made in the past; the glazed works have pre­sented more of chal­lenge for me, I try to avoid re­peat­ing a par­tic­u­lar tech­nique.” While there are fa­mil­iar shapes and forms from na­ture that emerge, for Vala­manesh the ob­jec­tiv­ity of sci­ence is lost with the pres­ence of mak­ing, “as much as I am in­ter­ested in sci­ence and sci­en­tific il­lus­tra­tion that is not my role; I just use them re­ally as a record, a start­ing point and then make some­thing that is not very sci­en­tific.” In­deed her en­gage­ment with the ma­te­ri­als changes the na­ture of these forms as they trans­form from draw­ings into paint­ings and three-di­men­sional ob­jects. When work­ing with mi­cro and macro or­gan­isms, the process of mak­ing is one of in­tu­ition. “A lot of the works I make start from an il­lus­tra­tion – I make a draw­ing in a note­book. There’s a lot of en­ergy go­ing on. It’s a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge mak­ing some­thing from a two-di­men­sional draw­ing into a three-di­men­sional ob­ject.” There is mys­ti­cism sur­round­ing the trans­fer of sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion from small-scale illustrations to large-scale ce­ram­ics by the artist. What drives these fa­mil­iar yet ab­stract, tac­tile yet re­duc­tive ob­jects is their abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with di­verse au­di­ences linked by a com­mon thread. “For me it is try­ing to feel at home or com­fort­able in my own skin and in the world. There is a lot of art­work that deals with cul­tural dif­fer­ences and that is re­ally ex­cit­ing and won­der­ful. I am in­ter­ested in the things that unite us and bring us to­gether. The ideas from sci­ence for me are a way of con­nect­ing to the world, to our en­vi­ron­ment.” Sub­tle and bal­anced in its ap­proach, An­gela Vala­manesh’s lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion prom­ises to draw you in on a shared vi­sion.


An­gela & Hos­sein Vala­manesh: New Work 29 Novem­ber – 22 De­cem­ber, 2017 GAG­Pro­jects, Ade­laide, SA gag­pro­

Cour­tesy the artist and GAG­Pro­jects, Ade­laide, SA

01 Tell us where we come from (yel­low), 2017, glazed ceramic 67 x 10 x 5cm 02 Un­ti­tled C, 2015, 3 parts, ceramic, 68 x 26 x 6cm 03 The space be­tween things: Re­mem­ber­ing Mary De­lany, 1, 2016, acrylic paint and var­i­ous pa­pers on board, 124 x 102cm

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