Navid Nuur: Phantom Fuel
March 13th - May 19th, 2013
by Vanessa Saraceno
For his first-ever solo show in UK, Iran-born Dutch artist Navid Nuur sets a world of discovery within the walls of Parasol Unit. Based on phenomenological experience, Phantom Fuel is the most extensive presentation of Nuur’s works. Neither sculptures nor installations, being not so rigid and immobile, these works have been defined by the artist as ‘interimodules’—“temporary module-like works that feed off each other when they are together”.
As the result of a manipulation, these works are cryptic and their meanings fluid. In addition, the darkness of the first room, while forcing closer proximity to the works, offers at the same time a feeling of distrust for what is visible. In These Are the Days (2004-13), leftover studio materials have been transformed by the artist into magic portals: looking inside, you discover miniature models of other spaces, or other people watching something else, somewhere else. In this almost mystic dimension, an overturned rubbish bin functions as a support for projecting evanescent images of other arcane, dusty micro-worlds. In Broken Glass (2011), a still-functioning red neon has been turned into a broken glass. Thereby, the light emitted by a work is absorbed by another, enhancinging the complete experience of it.
Passing through a curtain made of sand-paper, the post-industrial magic of this Phantom Fuel turns into an epistemological game. By repositioning the function of such ephemeral signs of the every day, and playing with their meanings, Nuur brings materials and objects to new life, allowing also the traces of this process to become part of his artistic gesture. In Untitled (2012-13), matches boxes are placed under a pale brown striped canvas. Not only a closer look, but also the smell of the work suggest the stripes are the result of another process, starting from the ashes of those dead matches that have been mixed with acrylic. Paint becomes a phantom, as time is reduced to the sign of its passing in Vein of Venus II (2008-09): a freezer supports a projector on top of which ice lollies are placed and left to melt. In this second room, the dynamic and also transcendental relation between idea and form becomes visible, tactile and even scented.
With a strong attention to the process-based nature of the work and loyalty to its materials, The Hague-based artist evidently bears traces of Conceptual Art and Minimalism. For instance, in Where I End and You begin (2008-13), the full stop of the exhibition wall text, written by others, has been enlarged hundreds of times, in the artist’s own words "until it posits its own objectivity". This way Nuur translates something about the work in the work itself.
However, Navid Nuur’s art refuses to be merely the manifestation of an idea or a concept. In the intermediate spaces of art, he sets his rules to disarm the viewer because he aims to stimulate a spontaneous, physical relationship with a certain material or object. Thus, he hangs a mobile phone on a wall with coloured baked modelling clay, in order to make people activate the work redblueredblue (2008-13) by dialling. At that moment, there were 17 missed calls and several unread messages.
In the last, very dark room, a video with two hands endlessly folding and unfolding a black paper, marks the end of the exhibition. Although managing an impossible correspondence, the viewer is still part of a process where ideas are exhibited just to be physically and mentally experienced. All their possible forms are enhanced by thousands of different subjectivities questioning, playing with or simply meditating in front of the work. What is present is the result of a collective, sensuous bargaining, enchanted by the hand of the artist.
Vanessa Saraceno is a freelance journalist based in London. She holds a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Art History and Heritage Management from IULM University of Milan. Over the past three years, she has worked with several art institutions and galleries in various communications roles. She also writes and runs an art blog: http://www.arthuntermag.comview all articles from this author