No Black in the Shadows

Hessam Samavatian

Hessam Samavatian, No Black in the Shadows

Installation, photosensitive emulsion on ceramics and plaster

Austria 2017


Image above: Exhibition view, The Essence 17, Alte Post, Vienna, 2017.


“Five ceramic containers sit there like oversize vases or amphoras, as if waiting to be circled by us or as if wanting to embody the concept of the archaeological artifacts in a sensuously ironic way. Their height is such that even shorter onlookers are able to peek into them from above: We are only met with a luscious black that inhabits the insides of the structures. The skin-colored surfaces of the high-growing, seemingly organic forms were largely coated with a light-sensitive emulsion and the exhibition space repurposed as a darkroom to create a shadow effect – a kind of illusionist painting which isn’t recognizable as such on first glance. These photographically fixed shadows are not only on the containers themselves but are also companions to them: There are contours on the ground reminiscent of insular zones or spilled liquids. They, too, were created through photographic exposure, besieging the (space-time) reality of the ceramic objects – as they unnaturally point into different directions and seem inverted: There is light where one might expect dark colors.

For Hesssam Samavatian, the form and storage function of the ceramic objects reference the camera obscura as a container of light. The objects correspond with large-format photographic prints. Their subject references the duality of shadow and light, not as a gradient but in the form of a seamless toppling from light to dark, from negative to positive, from interior to exterior. Is this the horizon? Shadows announce the arrival and departure of light, of images, of our own journeys. We ourselves are the imaginary actors in a shadow play, according to a poem by the Persian astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam, which Samavatian references in his statement about his work: ‘Play’d in a box whose candle is the sun, round which we phantom figures come and go’.” (Manojlović 2017: 54)


Hessam Samavatian, born 1984 in Tehran, Iran, lives and works in Vienna, Austria.


Katharina Manojlović, “Hessam Samavatian. No Black in the Shadows,” Eikon. International Magazine for Photography and Media Art, no. 100 (2017), p. 54.

See also

Hessam Samavatian, Untitled (Bildkreis)

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