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 gagprojects.com.com.au
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