The Land of No Sun
Apr. 16 - May 12, 2021
Notes on "The Land of No Sun", Abbas Nasle Shamloo's New Series
By Reza Seyfi Zoubaran, April 2021
"The Land of No Sun" – Abbas Nasle Shamloo's latest series of paintings – consists of landscapes that have been formed following the artist's direct encounter with the landscapes of northern Iran in recent years. The present series is a continuation of Nasle Shamloo's unique approach to landscape art as an independent subject and includes representations of small fragments of silent, melancholic nature with cloudy, damp skies. In his earlier works, we often noticed the presence of small-scale human or animal figures that seemed to be wandering around in the landscape in a state of uncertainty. As Nasle Shamloo begins to place greater emphasis on the represented landscapes, he gradually removes figures from his latest drawings and paintings, indicating their presence instead by representing traces left of them in nature, often in the form of abandoned man-made structures.
At first glance, the "Land of No Sun" seems to consist of fully representational images: it appears as though the artist has reconstructed the landscape in front of him in the form of paintings. However, the series is actually based on the artist's process of reimagining [vistas] while reviewing his visual studies and notes, which have been the result of his direct visual examination of scenery from Gilan Province. Considering the formative process of these works, none of the landscapes has any external objectivity. Instead, the artist has imagined and produced them sensually by means of constant acts of construction and destruction over canvas and paper. In other words, these paintings are consciously based on imagination.
This act of imagining guided by consciousness, which French philosopher Gaston Bachelard calls creative or productive imagination , is unlike dreams and daydreaming on the one hand and negates a mere objective representation on the other. Here the creative imagination appears as symbolic changes within possible existential determinations in order for the subject to take part in all the elements, forms, and actions of nature .
According to Bachelard, the subject is entirely passive in dreaming, while productive imagination, as we see in Nasle Shamloo's process of creation, requires conscious imagination and processing. It isn't, therefore, merely an impression of sensory perception. Perhaps one can consider the poetic and romantic aspect of Nasle Shamloo's works as the fruit of this creative imagination process in their production.
By adopting a different composition method for paintings throughout the series, the artist has blurred the boundary between inside and outside, thus establishing a dialog between them. In this way, the viewer is no longer a passive external subject or a mere witness of the view within the frame; rather, s/he, too, participates in the emergence of the imagery from within it. Bachelard also placed particular emphasis on this integration of inside and outside in his phenomenology of imagination . He believed that a purely spatial-geometric perception of the demarcated division of "inside / outside" prevents us from understanding the implications and semantic nuances of truth, causing us to see the place as a whole without any distinction . By adopting this approach in interpreting the works of Abbas Nasle Shamloo, the two concepts of inside and outside no longer represent a mere contradictory spatial confrontation but rather combine in a way. From this viewpoint, in addition to inviting the audiences [into the landscape], "The Land of No Sun" also adopts a critical perspective in presenting these landscapes.