TREES IN SNOW
Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL.
Zelda Cheatle Gallery, Ground Floor, Rivington Place, 81 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3BA.
14 April - 19 June 2005, Victoria & Albert Museum.
27 April - 20 May 2005, Zelda Cheatle Gallery.
The Iran Heritage Foundation, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Zelda Cheatle Gallery and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute.
Martin Barnes, Victoria & Albert Museum.
Zelda Cheatle, Zelda Cheatle Gallery.
Abbas Kiarostami is renowned for his award-winning films. Less well known is his practice of still photography sustained over 25 years. These photography exhibitions mark the first time that Kiarostami photographs have been exhibited in the UK.
Abbas Kiarostami observes his world closely, each medium effortlessly glides into the next.
from the black clouds
with the whiteness of snow
A poem written by Kiarostami that introduces the photographs both in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Zelda Cheatle Gallery. The photographs are all in snow. Trees in Snow. The winter landscape of Iran visited, photographed and revisited over many years. In the tradition of landscape photography, these are solitary explorations which describe the factual terrain but by their very repetition of the subject introduce subtleties and complexities which underlie the simple image. Kiarostami is not a traditional landscape photographer, but one whose photographic vision is part of the greater picture, a philosophy.
Inside the shrine
I thought a thousand thoughts
and when I left
it had snowed
The selection reveals the concentrated vision of the artist exploring the single motif of trees in snow. The subject evokes an atmosphere of solitude and aloneness. Empty foregrounds allow the viewer to enter while shadows and snow drifts contribute to the breakdown of a sense of scale and perspective, creating instead an intensely meditative space.
Kiarostami's films are acclaimed partly because of the way in which they challenge stereotypes, and their philosophical tone and poetic vision. In his films, he often uses a fixed position in which the camera does not move and the viewer is engaged through the untold or unexplained. Events unfold in front of the lens. In this way, his parallel practice of still photography is linked to his cinematic work and shares some of its aesthetic and intellectual concerns.
The Trees in Snow series are borne out of Kiarostami's long, solitary walks to search for film sets, sometimes covering thousands of miles in the Iranian landscape. Photographing these landscapes allowed him a spontaneous immersion in nature. They became the equivalent of emotional states and the trees almost human, echoing the saying of the Islamic mystic Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi (born 1165 died 1240): 'the tree is the sister of man'.
Kiarostami's photographs achieve their impact without the use of intricate lighting techniques or sophisticated equipment. He is not concerned with studied methods of technique or printing. All the works shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Zelda Cheatle Gallery are gelatin silver prints made in 2005, though the negatives were taken during the period from 1978-2003 and are deliberately not dated more precisely within this range by the artist.
A little patch of snow-
souvenir of a long winter
in early spring
'Contemplating the cloudy sky and the massive trunk of a tree under a magical light is difficult when one is alone. Not being able to feel the pleasure of seeing a magnificent landscape with someone else is a form of torture. That is why I started taking photographs. I wanted somehow to eternalize those moments of passion and pain.'
(all poems quoted above are by Abbas Kiarostami)
For a selection of the images from these exhibitions click on 'Image Gallery' on the left hand column of this page.
Zelda Cheatle Gallery - 44 20 77292422
Iran Heritage Foundation - 44 20 74934766, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This programme is part of a London-wide programme of events entitled Abbas Kiarostami: Visions of the Artist celebrating the achievements of this artist and his impact on contemporary culture and society.