Amir-Nasr Kamgooyan, b. 1982, Tehran, BA in Graphic Design from Shiraz Soureh University. My focus has mainly been on printmaking. Searching for a personal style, I turned more and more to photoengraving. It didn’t take long before I became fascinated by the printing plates themselves, which became my first artwork in a group exhibition in 2012. After that experience, I decided to develop this skill and make use of the capacities of the engraving techniques to realize my intricate mental images. The goal was to achieve a glorious and unique quality, with my source of inspiration being the geometric shapes and stark sketches of engine parts, drawings of industrial machinery and biological illustrations. Moreover, I became obsessed with aged things, like old structures, shabby buildings, battered and rusty objects, and old factories, deserted towns etc. The older they were, the more intriguing they became. For me, they symbolize the passage of time and almost like a time capsule, they vibrate with a mysterious frequency. This could perfectly be translated into steel printing plates.
During this process, I resolved to get rid of frames and empty margins: I cut out the drawings in its entirety so that a single shape remained. This gave me freedom not only in design quality but also in presentation. Another benefit would be that the viewer’s attention would be more focused on the work itself.
Humanity is in constant struggle. This is inevitably reflected in our environment. Of all the generations, we are suffering the worst consequences of the deeds of our predecessor. All of our achievements, whether scientific or technological, were supposed to help us live a better, more profound and more fulfilled lives. But all of our endeavors have terribly backfired. Our progress has cost us a lot and it is progressively taking its toll on our planet. A modern man can single-handedly do more harm to nature than a thousand men of old ever could. And he does. Modernity will not stop until it has trodden all nature down under its colossal wheels.
Bacon has famously said, “I am like a grinding machine. I look at everything, and everything goes in and gets ground up very fine. Images are regenerated within me.” I always try to be as honest as I can: I choose an image like a Ziggurat or an autopsy or a pattern in a carpet, and then I start to imagine and draw, so in the process I somehow “dive into” the subject. In this way, I can access the layers of subconscious and also unconscious of my psyche, delivering them on steel. It also gives enough space for accidents. Every detail gives birth to another: the whole creative process is exhilarating.
Secrets of Oblivion
Amir-Nasr’s work is reminiscent of the eras of history—art history—in which the artist was on a quest to find his relationship to the world, trying to find ways to represent that relationship; the artist considered himself to be the contained, and nature, the container of his existence. The present works have an intricate appearance that stem from the convolutions of that relationship. In order to satisfy its needs and find the answers to its questions, the human mind begins to experiment with different ideas, accomplishing many things in order to explore and represent the inside as well as the outside. While contemplating in the profoundness of the relationship between the self and existence (nature), however, it comes across congestions and disorders. The more it plunges itself into the depth of the question of “where it is” and “what it is doing,” the more it has to juxtapose various structures and images to define its position inside existence (nature). In this quest, man returned to his inwardness at first, exploring and portraying it, and then, in order to utilize and control the world, he began to make intellectual and experiential mechanisms to bring life and the world into line with his desires and ambitions.
Gradually, however, while constructing this new world, man became oblivious. He was submerged into the lure of industrial life, walking further down the path of destruction, forgetting the same existence by which he used to consider himself to be contained. He came to the point, where he was dissatisfied with his self-made existence, so he felt the urge to go back. But there was no turning back. All he could do was to look back, from present moment to the past, from the deep waters to the inside; only endeavoring to return to the world of mind and to nature, i.e. the two original worlds. He no longer could deindustrialize his industrialized existence. What remained was to become aware of that he had forgotten his relationship to existence. Perhaps the only way to return, was to take refuge to the world of imagination; passing through the alluring, artificial world and harboring in imagination to rethink the past, present, and future of nature/existence, and reconstructing the relationship and the status of “the self” in it. This imagination is not ecstasy nor illusion. It is, rather, a turning back to the self in order to remember the origin of man and existence. It is understanding and feeling the self as an organic whole, and considering it as unified with the greater organism of nature.
In the works of Amr-Nasr, an intricate, interwoven, even disorderly structure is depicted, which is constructed from those relations. The relationship between a mind concerned with and yearning for nature, with a disturbed, neutralized mind, drowned in the excesses of industrialized everydayness. A mind caught up in a struggle to survive, which is a far cry with a real passion for life. A mind that has been wrestling with forgetfulness in the course of its lived experience, and now, having to encounter its consequences, finds its only way of escape in to take refuge in the forgetting of the status quo. Passing through the current forgetfulness by harboring in oblivion!
I am taking my feet off the earth
I am taking my head out the heaven’s collar
I am putting the garment of flesh off the soul’s body
I am writing with the pen of oblivion across the universe*
It is as though the mind breaks free from the confines of life through oblivion. It seeks and experiences the way of redemption from an opposite direction. Moving again from the outside to the inside, it takes awareness back from the world through imagination.
Turn inadvertence and oblivion into knowledge
I am filled with wrath, make me patient**
In spite of their intricacy and interwoven quality, Amir-Nasr’s works, similar to scientific illustrations, seek to illuminate and elucidate. Through disorder and collages, he makes his way to purity in a counter-intuitive fashion. He is searching for the purity of material through an industrial procedure. In the interwoven mechanical, natural, and imaginary motifs, he experiments with a movement in the opposite direction towards the natural roots. The movement from a monolithic, harmonious, orderly mechanism to a fragmented, discordant, disorderly organism. In his approach, the image and the process of making the image have the same value. In fact, what comes into view is not all, but half of it, and indeed, a trace of it.
Despite the works’ fascinating and appealing quality, as well as their visual complexity, Amir-Nasr does not aim at a definitive and decisive revelation; or conveying a message. Rather, he takes a twisted path to the inside, to forget, in order to remember the fountainhead. His oblivion tries to deindustrialize the heart of methods and industrial materials. It moves from mechanical geometry to natural geometry, taking apart the engineered symmetries of the pieces of the mind, throwing their construction borders into disarray.
Winter of 2017
*) Jami, Haft Awrang [Seven Thrones], “Gift of the Free,” 15th century AD.
**) Rumi, The Masnavi, 13th century AD