Something from Nothing - Dialogue with Hossein Valamanesh
CK Any advice for young, emerging artists?
HV Just go for it! It's a lot more complicated for younger artists. There's so much more calculation - 'Should I do this… or that'? I'm not saying it was easy for us, but we weren't as concerned with career. We just kept on going. It depends how far you want to be fully involved in the work. I feel like it's important to be represented by a commercial gallery in my time. It's a personal choice. For me in the early 80s there was a possibility of maybe going into teaching or working for a museum but I consciously decided to stick to my craft. Even those jobs needed a real commitment, especially teaching. Nowadays you can be an artist who writes or curates and so on - but that is also the personal character of each person.
Just go for it. As the old aborigines said to me, 'Tell your story.' The first time I did a painting in Australia was in Papunya in 1974. Dot paintings were beginning two years earlier in Papunya… and I really liked this technique. I asked, 'Could I do a painting?' - They said, 'No problem, but you have to tell your own story'. For them there is a certain sacredness to it. As long as you tell your story; you can use dots or any technique.
I was a young artist, I was trying to see art work, how can I fit in there and have a conversation with this or that art work...
When I started talking about my story, it became much more personal. I think if it's personal… in a sense it becomes more universal. It's not a little art club, where people have to know what you're talking about.
You have to be a bit crazy to do it, a bit of madness is really important and to be persistent. Be very persistent. There's so many financial issues.
CK Did you struggle to find your story?
HV My story is asking questions about what am I looking at, sometimes it's purely visual conversations I have with the world. I see a leaf or a poem, I cut and paste it, sometimes its concepts and ideas… that is my story. Looking at the world and conversing with it… that conversation becomes my work.
At the end of our conversation, Valamanesh writes on my note pad, the word 'Nothing' in its two different forms in Farsi.
I can't help but think that out of this nothingness, Valamanesh has created something quite intimate and yet inclusive.