Nine Iranian Artists in London: THE SPARK IS YOU – exhibition at the Parasol Unit

The exhibition at the Parasol Unit curated by Ziba Ardalan, the founder and director of the gallery highlights the lyrical qualities of the pieces of art on display derived from the nine artists’ Persian heritage. It also brings out the universal appeal of contemporary Iranian art that defies the borders.

Creation through destruction is one of the prevailing themes. The exhibition begins with the large scale installation by Nazgol Ansarinia. What looks like an assemblage of concrete debris are in fact 3D printed elements arranged on pallets, arranged to resemble little buildings. This is accompanied by two videos by the same artist showing a demolition of an anonymous building in Tehran, one of many destroyed in the city by the ‘real-estate anarchists’. Watching a built structure in the process of being demolished is inexplicably hypnotising, as the sequences of dust particles whirling in the sunlight and rhythmic drum-like banging in the walls culminate in the final act of destruction.

Nazgol Ansarinia
The Mechanisms of GrowthDemolishing Buildings, Buying Waste (2017) by Nazgol Ansarinia (detail).

David Nuur’s Broken Blue Square (2017) literally consists of broken pieces of glass inserted inside glass tubes and illuminated in an enigmatic installation.

Continuing the destruction/creation theme, Ghazaleh Hedayat in her series (un)threading (2018) scratches the surface of photographs showing the back of the artist’s head and shoulders, metaphorically veiling and unveiling the source image.

Sam Samiee’s two mixed-media space interventions reference two famous stones, the largest cut diamonds known as Koh-i-noor and Darya-i-noor. Apparently the work also reimagines the characters from the One Thousand and One Night, Shahrzad and her sister Dinazad, however the installation is so abstract that it is difficult to see the connection.

A very imaginative and provocative sculpture by Koushna Navabi – Untitled (Tree Trunk) might be understood as an image of violence against women, but the artist is also interested in the themes of alienation and identity. Stitched onto a wooden figure with truncated limbs and a gaping hole in the middle are fragments of hand-woven Persian kilim. The figure is suspended from the ceiling at a low level which allows the visitors to look through the hole to the floor. A combination of fine craftsmanship with abstracted human shape cut out of a tree trunk makes a moving but uneasy to look at work of art.

Koushna Navabi
 Koushna Navabi – Untitled (Tree Trunk) (2018) (installation view)

Kinetic art is well represented here, such as the Transitional Spaces (2017) by Hadi Tabatabai consisting of a set of panels which come together only when viewed from a fixed point.

Although static, but easily imagined as if in perpetual motion, the Cradle of Religions (2019) by Morteza Ahmadvand is based on the principle used in device known as Newton’s Cradle. In Ahmadvand’s sculpture each of the three spheres connects to a symbol of one of the three Abrahamic religions attached on top. This philosophically and politically charged artwork shows symbolically how everything in the universe is connected.

Morteza Ahmadvand
Cradle of Religions (2019) by Morteza Ahmadvand (installation view)

Another kinetic sculpture is Nahankhane (2017) by Sahand Sehamiyan located in Parasol Unit’s terrace where it’s surrounded by greenery. The stainless-steel structure appears to change its shape as you walk around it, creating an interesting juxtaposition between nature and man-made object of art. The artwork echoes traditional Persian architecture.

In Lotus Vault # 2 (2013) Hossein Valamanesh, who lives and works in Australia combines Australian lotus leaves and traditional architectural patterns of the Jāmeh Mosque (Friday Mosque) in Isfahan, Iran, thus bringing together influences from both his homeland and his new home.

Hossein Valamanesh
Lotus Vault # 2 (2013) by Hossein Valamanesh

One of the most interesting contemporary art exhibitions in London at the moment.


Nine Iranian Artists in London: THE SPARK IS YOU is a free of charge exhibition at the Parasol Unit 22 May – 30 August 2019.


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All images from the exhibition by Ground Impressions.

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