Prolepsis: Sahand Hesamiyan’s 24-years Journey with Steel Sculptures
By Susanne Niemann
Published on October 25th, 2023
Sahand Hesamiyan is based between Tehran and Dubai. His work is a contemporary interpretation of traditional Iranian geometrical shapes. His sculptures are layered with meaning from mythology, philosophy, and his own life experiences.
Global Art Daily sat down with Hesamiyan just a day before the opening of Prolepsis, his third solo show with The Third Line in Dubai, which also marks the artist’s 24-year journey with the material metal. Prolepsis will be on show at The Third Line gallery from 28th September – 3rd November 2023.
Susanne Niemann: Thank you very much for your time for this interview with Global Art Daily. I haven’t seen your work in-person yet, but from the photos, I am fascinated by the technical details of your sculptures. Your exhibition Prolepsis is opening tomorrow, September 28th, how are you feeling about it?
Sahand Hesamiyan: I am grateful that we have this show after a long time. My last show with The Third Line was in 2014. This particular show is very important for me as it contains a series of work that I have done throughout the past years. Now, I am seeing all of them in one exhibition. It is very joyful for me as I designed them over a long period of time.
S.N.: I can see how that is a beautiful moment to reflect now that you are back with The Third Line after almost a decade and showing many pieces together. How is it looking back at your own practice now? And how has the UAE art ecosystem changed throughout your practice?
S.H.: Everything is changing very fast. Community is very important now. I see more public art that is trying to engage people in the city. There are commissions for sculptures for different parts of the city. This was absent in the region before. There are big shopping malls and important buildings but public art was absent. There were projects that were appropriate for inside spaces but I didn't see that much outside. Emaar did some projects a long time ago for 2 or 3 years but then they stopped. They were the first company that I saw commissioning public art around the downtown area and also in Dubai Mall.
Everything [in the UAE] is changing very fast. Community is very important now. I see more public art that is trying to engage people in the city.
S.N.: I agree, we are seeing more of that now. Would you like to see your work in such a context?
S.H.: Actually one of the pieces that I showed at The Third Line gallery was acquired by Emaar and installed in front of the Dubai Opera. Surely, it would make me happy to have another project installed in public because I think public art is important. Having a public project is important for me as I usually design my pieces to be a part of the city. I like people to engage with them.
Having a public project is important for me as I usually design my pieces to be a part of the city. I like people to engage with them.
S.N.: It is interesting to hear you say that because we were talking about community earlier. You are currently based between Tehran and Dubai. I wonder what role Dubai and the wider UAE play in your work. What about community engagement here?
S.H.: Being here gives me an opportunity to connect more easily to the world and to other communities. I can talk with different people and there are a lot of important events here in Dubai. This gives me an opportunity to engage more with people and also artworks.
S.N.: Now this is a completely different question but looking back at such a long career as an artist and having worked with metal for 24 years now, I am curious to hear how you got into art and into sculpture in the first place. How did you decide to focus specifically on sculpture while at university?
S.H.: I was always fascinated by making something with my hands. As a young man, 14 or 15 years old, I was interested in wood structures and I learned carpentry. I was introduced to sculpture and learned through free courses. Around the age of 18, I was advised to go to university if I wanted to be serious in this field. In Iran, you need to pass two tests, a general one and an art-focused one, to get into university. I tried for four or five years. I chose to be a sculptor and this helped me to push through university and pursue this career.
S.N.: Hearing you say you tried for several years just to get into the university, I am inspired by your commitment. So you started working with your hands, first with wood and now with metal for quite a long time. Throughout your practice, have you always been so committed to the material?
S.H.: Regarding the material, I chose metal because I already had the skill of welding. That helped me to easily work with metal during my university days. As a sculptor, I tried different materials and methods, like ceramics, fiberglass and stone carving. The majority of my work can be categorized as metal pieces but I am adding ceramic equipment to my workshop and I think my next project will be a combination of metal and ceramic.
S.N.: We are excited to see it. After talking about the materiality of your work, I would like to hear more about the spirit of your work. In an earlier interview, you said that you take inspiration from your everyday experiences and events. Can you talk more about the concepts behind your works?
S.H.: It is different from project to project. I am not chasing one kind of concept in my work. The shape is obviously inspired by Iranian architecture. The concept is based on my feelings or what is happening to me and close people around me. When something occupies my mind, this is how I express myself as a sculptor and I try to transfer this idea or feeling to the audience.
S.N.: Have you had conversations with the visitors at your previous shows about what they see in the work and how they understand your concepts?
I am not chasing one kind of concept in my work. The shape is obviously inspired by Iranian architecture.
S.H.: Yes, it's always important. It’s mesmerizing when you can engage your audience with your work. I am very lucky that I had positive reactions for most of my exhibitions. The shapes I choose are familiar for people living in this region. Yet, they might be a bit unfamiliar for the audience from Europe and other regions. At my last show with The Third Line, the audience got a feeling of calmness from the pieces, that is what I wanted them to experience.
S.N.: That is wonderful to hear that even though there is a regional specificity in the shapes, there is also a sort of universal feeling that others can relate to. We talked about your material inspiration and the influences from Iranian architecture and also your own experiences. Can you walk me through your process from inspiration to designing a piece and then its fabrication?
S.H.: When something occupies my mind, or there is something that interests me, I try to imagine the idea as an object and see which form would be most real and reliable to show it. After a while, I settle on an idea. I usually don't draw much but directly go to making a mock-up. That helps me to see what I am thinking of. If everything goes well, I will then design the piece in 3D software. From that, I will make a more accurate mock-up. Sometimes that is enough and I can make a metal prototype. Or I will adjust the mock-up several times until it is what I want before going to the metal prototype. If there is any problem throughout the process of making the metal prototype, I will fix it and then we are good to go for the main piece.
S.N.: Out of the pieces you are exhibiting at The Third Line, is there one that is particularly meaningful to you?
S.H.: In this show, there are some pieces that were actually designed and executed for another project. They have a shared background and concept. And there are some other pieces that show the journey of this project. There are two pieces that I really engaged with, Kayhan and the Pillars of Victory. Both of these works and their concept are very important to me. I hope that one day, I have the chance to execute them in actual size for the public.
S.N.: Tell me more about the concept for these two works.
SH: Kayhan was designed for one of my solo shows but we didn’t have the chance to show it. In Islamic and Iranian architecture, most of the decoration in the domes and ceilings is replicated after the universe. There are many stars. These geometrical forms are connected to the cosmos and the universe. With Kayhan, I design a structure with these ornaments, but I bring it to the audience in a different way, not at the ceiling but in front of them. People can stand in front of it. It becomes a window to the universe. It is elongated, just like a journey through space and through time. This is what I felt when I designed it, and I hope the audience can have the same feeling. The other piece, called Pillars of Victory, is a form that combines many different elements from this region.The palm tree, the minaret, and also the pillars of victory that you can find throughout this region. This piece is imagining how a journey can be. It will come to a conclusion, and we will build pillars of victory for it.
In Islamic and Iranian architecture, most of the decoration in the domes and ceilings is replicated after the universe. There are many stars. These geometrical forms are connected to the cosmos and the universe.
S.N.: These are really powerful ideas. I hope to see the works in person soon. Best of luck for the opening tomorrow.
Sahand Hesamiyan (b. 1977, Tehran) holds a Bachelor of Sculpture from the University of Tehran. The artist's versatile practice is informed by a profound understanding of construction techniques, culminating in larger than life metal sculptures and small elaborate works on paper. Selected solo exhibitions include: Far Side, Emrooz Gallery, Isfahan, Iran (2022); Majaz, BLOK Art Space at Cukurcuma and Buyuk Valide Han, Istanbul (2017); Frame Reference, Dastan Outside the Basement, Tehran, Iran (2015); Tavizeh, Dastan’s Basement, Tehran, Iran (2015).Sahand’s work is included in important private and public collections, including: the Delfina Entrecanales Collection, Imago Mundi – Luciano Benetton Collection, The Samawi Collection and MAC.@sahandhesamiyanstudio
The Third Line is a Dubai-based gallery founded in 2005 that represents Southwest Asian and Afro Asian artists locally, regionally, and internationally. With over 18 years of dedicated commitment to the arts, it has become a pioneering platform for established talent and emerging voices from the region and its diaspora, building a dynamic program that explores the diversity of practices in the region. @TheThirdLineDXB
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