The sound of footsteps can be heard everywhere, as you walk into the quiet room in the gallery, and the sand prints on the wall greet you with their sparkling colors. Overshadowed by the yellowish color of soil and sand, the paintings there surround the figure of a woman, who is situated in between them. The figure is rising up from the sand, with her hands open to the sky and her face covered by a coiled snake.


A figure of a man lurks behind her, depicting the two-dimensional aspect of human beings, or perhaps it is the all-embracing spirit of mankind. The tree growing from the body of the woman symbolizes birth, while the snake symbolizes eternity on one hand and the temptation of Satan on the other.


The sound of a purling stream suddenly fills the entire room as artist Ahmad Nadalian enters the gallery. That sound was the ring of his cell phone, an appropriate choice!


His unpretentious appearance in a blue shirt and straw hat, attire typically worn by residents of Iran’s northern region, expresses his link with nature.


“My sand prints show our mother, the Earth. The earth is our cradle in which we grow. She holds the memory of our ancestors, and will hold our body inside some day,” reads his note on the wall of the gallery.


The colorful sands covering the artwork are collected from Hormoz Island in southern Iran and are combined with sands the artist has brought from different parts of the world. The sands are later turned into colors by the artist’s unique process.


Nadalian is famous for his land art creations in Iran and around the world. He has been living in nature for 12 years and searches for raw materials for his artistic creations. He later displays them in natural settings; both his concepts and the material used are related to nature. 


“In the early years, I began with stone, engraving the stone for projects of river art. I traveled to different spots in the world and made the engravings on river banks or in river beds and left the work to revert back to nature. But occasionally, I reached a place where there was no suitable stone for the job and this led me to substitute other materials found in nature for stone.


“The first technique I selected was using a seal inspired by our ancient Iranian seals. Our ancestors used the seals in smaller size to seal the objects, but I chose larger sizes to impress images on a beach or in a desert. The subjects engraved on the seals are also related to the same region, like fish, turtles, snakes or lizards. 


“In this exhibit, the sand prints dominate the rest. The idea came to my mind when I traveled to Hormoz Island. When I saw the sand, I chose it as the primary medium of my work. It contains three years of my experience. In the early years, most of my work reverted back to nature, but later an idea came to me to make my creations enduring so I could display them in a gallery, so I collected sand and painted it on canvas. One good thing is that the colors are compatible with nature and not chemicals that could harm one’s hands or the environment.” 


On the process of changing the sand into color, he explained, “At first, we grind the clods collected from the beach in a mortar, until they turn into very small grains. These little grains are good enough for glass paintings, but if we want to make a smoother powder for paintings, we have to mix it with water and let the water evaporate. The red and yellow sand combined with water easily covers the canvas or wood, needing no binding medium or glue, but for other colors we make use of acrylic and varnish. We can also make use of fixative. The colors coming out of this sand are quite lasting and remain stable like chemical-based colors.”


As you continue to walk, the small collection of the pieces of fish bones and debris from ships and boats collected from the beach catch your eyes. The objects are painted with the same colorful sands. Images of snakes and fish can be seen on the objects mainly in red. Most of the items were sold out on the first days of the show. 


Glass paintings come next. Part of the works has been created by the women of the island; a portrait of a local female resident, the image of a deer, or a shell, or a fish are also observed in this collection.


“The collection of glass painting, some solo and some group works, are made by the women of Hormoz Island. The main subjects of the work come from both of us, either they choose a subject to paint and I imitate them or the other way. The reason why I chose to teach the local residents was that I thought we could make use of the quantity of sand instead of just the quality, and also it would create jobs for the residents,” said the artist. 


At other corner of the gallery, the floor is covered by sand and the cylindrical seals are rolled upon the sand leaving the variety of imprints such as fish, lizards, and portraits of women. A great number of seals in different sizes bearing different engravings are set beside the sand floor. 


Nadalian explained the process of making his seals, saying, “The cylindrically-shaped seals are first made by machine and then I do the engravings by hand. And the engravings must be done as a mirror image of the desired imprint. The seals themselves last but the imprints made by them do not. 


“This exhibit is a subtle kind of suggestion to say that when we go out to nature, we should not feel compelled to fill every nook and cranny in the environment with permanent designs. We can create inspiring works in a very short time and let our ideas and dreams quickly find their own ways on the beach.”


The artist comes to Mah-e Mehr gallery every afternoon to hold a workshop there. He paints on bones or does glass paintings during his show, which runs until May 25 at the gallery located at No.7, Nilufar St. off Africa Ave.










News Code 33848

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