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"8 Minutes Ago": A Review of Hessam Samavatian's Show

Author : Amir Esfandiari

Reading Time : 4 Minutes

Original text in Farsi by Amir Esfandiari

Translated to English by Omid Armat

A solo show by Hessam Samavatian (b. 1984) entitled "8 Minutes Ago" ran from Feb 16 to 27, 2022, at Cromwell Place in London. The host of the show was Ab Anbar Gallery.  Samavatian has previously participated in several group shows in Iran and other countries.

Hessam Samavatian | Galaxien No.22-5 | 2022 | baryta paper, photochemically treated | 15.5 × 10.5 cm

"8 Minutes Ago" includes three series of Samavatian's ongoing works started in 2012. Photographs presented in this show are produced with different methods. As an experimentalist artist and according to his studies on the effect of light on photographic paper, Samavatian recorded these images without a camera and contrary to the conventional method of photography.

A series of photographs in this show are similar to astronomical images that represent stars and galaxies, but they are produced in the darkroom without any of the standard tools used for this type of photography, such as cameras and telescopes. These images are grouped in a category called "Galaxies" and show particles with different tonalities of yellow on a dark background of the night sky. They are arranged unorderly next to each other.

"Photographical Landscapes" is the title of another part of Samavatian's works that are reminiscent of remote places with their highs and lows represented with a minimum range of colors on photographic paper. Greys are rendered next to other colors. These images remind us of vast, remote areas. They are huge images that are installed in the vertical direction and are also available in different sizes.

Another series of works presented in this show consists of plaster casts on which different parts of Samavatian's old family photos are imprinted. Some pictures show full human figures; others display parts of a body or some other detail. This series points to the artist's private life and presents it in a fragile form like a plaster cast. Using a photosensitive emulsion, negative images are printed on the casts.


Hessam Samavatian | Plaster Casts No.17-1 | 2017 | plaster, pigment, photosensitive emulsion | 25 × 19 × 3 cm

The casts, which are combinations of sculpture and photographs, are somehow connected to the tradition of creating plaster death masks. They remain as memories but in a fragile form. It is mentioned in the exhibition's statement that the images are related to a missing negative film belonging to the artist's grandfather, and Samavatian accidentally found it. Besides the show's three parts, a candle and a spoon are installed in the gallery's space which turns into a repetitive element in the artist's work.

By arranging three series next to each other, Hessam Samavatian is looking for a special understanding of them. The juxtaposition of photos on plaster models, vast areas, and galaxies has created a specific process; we see an experimental approach in all three series. In two of them, images are made with no camera; in the other, a negative film recorded in the past was used. In this part, by imprinting photos on an unconventional material (broken plasters), the artist has tried to get distanced from the prevalent ways of presenting a photograph with papers or slides. In this series, Samavatian has attempted to study the properties of light, shadows, reflections, and chemical characteristics of photography.


"8 Minutes Ago" starts with a person and his family, continues to vast areas, and eventually merges into galaxies. It can also be read in reverse—an unlimited space facing a person and a community, which becomes meaningful in its most personal sense, so small and fragile that it gets lost in the endless grandeur of the skies, but then retrieves itself. This is a space created by the arrangement of different series of works and leads to an understanding beyond technical matters.


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