Over the past ten days, Australia has lost two important figures in the art world. Both were senior artists working in Adelaide but with a reach extending far beyond the city or the nation.
Recognized feminist artist, Ann Newmarch OAM, born June 9, 1945, died Thursday January 13, 2022.
Hossein Valamanesh AM, born March 2, 1949, died suddenly on January 15, just weeks before he and his partner Angela Valamanesh were due to exhibit their work at the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art – Free/State at the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Although they work in mostly different genres, a similar sense of restraint pervades each’s work, and both artists are equally celebrated.
Vale Ann Newmarch
Newmarch’s life and career have been marked by political activism and his energy leading community projects such as the anti-rape mural Reclaim the Night (1980) and the Prospect Mural Group’s postcolonial history of Australia. (1982).
In 1969 she joined the staff of the South Australian School of Art and, while continuing the tradition of a long line of lecturers, her appointment was different. She ushered in the optimism and “voice” second-wave feminism gave to female artists and for three decades mentored female students who, in turn, went on to successful careers.
In 1974 Newmarch was a founding member of the politically active Progressive Art Movement (PAM) and, in 1976, the Women’s Art Movement of Adelaide. In each, she pushed the boundaries of the print medium to develop an accessible art form. In PAM, with mandy martin, Newmarch produced political posters at his Prospect studio advocating changes such as a nationalized car industry and Australian independence.
As an artist and mother of three young children in the 1970s and 1980s, her work in all areas of media embodies second-wave feminism’s mantra “the personal is political.” His three months of interrupted work, presented in the groundbreaking WAM exhibition in 1977, The women’s parade, best describes the act of juggling domestic work, motherhood and the work of an artist.
Her children became her subjects, as well as pressing social issues such as the damage to the landscape caused by atomic testing and uranium mining as in Maralinga: Poisoned Rations (1988).
Later in life, she faced the invisibility of aging women in a powerful series Risking 50 (1995).
Newmarch’s 1978 print, Women hold up half the sky!, whose title is a riff on Mao Zedong’s famous phrase, was the only Australian work selected for the all-important 2007 exhibition in Los Angeles. WACK! Art and the feminist revolution. It was again featured in the National Gallery of Australia’s Know My Name exhibition in 2021.
Read more: Beauty and boldness: Know My Name presents a new female history of Australian art
Her work is held by all major public and private collections, and she was the first female artist to be honored with a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1997. She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her arts services. in 1989.
Colleagues took to social media with the words:
Rest in Power Ann Newmarch: One of Australia’s great second-wave feminist artists.
Vale Hossein Valamanesh
Hossein Valamanesh, was born in Iran and educated at the Tehran School of Art, and immigrated to Australia in 1973.
From his initial base in Perth, he traveled to remote indigenous communities in 1974 where his contact with an ancient culture resonated with his centuries-old Persian heritage. He moved to Adelaide the following year and attended the South Australian School of Art.
In 1997 he summed up his connection to Longing’s place of belonging by lighting a campfire on a Persian rug placed in the Australian bush. The burnt charred circle of the carpet testifies to his dual identity.
Valamanesh’s work is known and appreciated for its restrained aesthetic sensibility, clean form and poetic visual imagery. His materials are often natural materials: ochres, sands, stones and leaves, branches and twigs animated by a Sufi philosophy exploring the ineffable and the ephemeral underpinned by Persian poetry.
A shadow of the human form is a persistent theme, as in his mural Untitled (1995) consisting of a folded shirt made of lotus leaves against a Sufi love poem painted in the form of a human shadow (viewed diagonally). Beneath philosophy, mathematics inevitably comes into play in his work.
More than five decades, in sculpture, painting, installation and video (recently with his son Nassiem at Buxton Contemporary) Valamanesh’s work explores the paradoxes of individuality, existence and being. Collaborative work with his wife Angela Valamenesh includes several public art commissions, including the fourteen pieces (2005) outside the South Australian Museum, referring to the vertebrae of an extinct marine reptile in the museum’s collection.
Hossein’s work is held in national and international collections and he has been a prolific international exhibitor, with his work currently featured in a major solo exhibition. Since everything passes, at the Institute of Islamic Cultures in Paris.
His many awards include an Order of Australia (with Angela) in 2010 for outstanding artistic practice, and he too has been a generous mentor to young artists. His contemplative work will endure, he has been described as “a discoverer of beautiful things in a world that hides them well”.