Banafsheh Hemmati
A passion with various forms of Islamic geometry was first manifested in my practice of designing jewelry based on Islamic architectural structures (since 2008). It was then accompanied by studies in the field of philosophy, which I later pursued in an academic format, and had a major effect on my attitude towards geometry. Geometry is fundamental in Islamic architecture; fulfilling both structural and decorative goals. The sacred character of mathematics in the Islamic worldview is established in the arts more than anything else. In the realm of Islamic art, the matter becomes sanctified through geometry and mathematics. A sacred space is created from this union which echoes the omnipresence of God. The practice of geometry in the paradigm of Islamic art is meant to fulfill the central goal of this art, which is a passage from multiplicity to union; to induce and reinforce the sense of unity in the worshipper. In Platonic thought, also, the geometrical abstraction acted as a shadow of the world of ideas. The interconnection of geometry and spirituality in Greek art has manifested itself in a devotion to geometrical order, spiral patterns and golden ratios. The significance and status of geometry can be traced all over the history of thought. During the time I was seeking a contemporary reading of geometry, I was absorbed by the process of various interpretations of the truth in different periods of the history of philosophy: in the classical age, it is associated with the world of ideas’; in Modern times, it is being explained with mathematical perception; and in contemporary era it is varied and manifold. As geometry has been associated with both Western and Eastern solid metaphysics, and is grounded on concrete axioms, I found it a proper basis to represent the variations of the understanding of the truth. Girih Tiles, a device in Iranian-Islamic architecture, are made from similar geometrical forms. They represent harmony and balance. They can also be extended from all sides. Their substantial order, purged from any kind of chance and accident, encouraged me to use them as a source of deconstruction, to distort their secure order and arrangement and extend their visual potentials. In Derrida’s system of thoughts, deconstruction is the first step to a new understanding of everything. Inspired by his thoughts, I imposed a twist on the flat structure of the Girih Tile structure, to actually deconstruct and extend its possibilities. For me, Intervention in these established forms stands for a pursuit in the possibilities of interfering in concrete structures and solid notions. Along with its visual attractions as well as challenges, this devise represents my attitude towards, and engagement with, the philosophical problematic of truth. That is why the structures are made in layers, which represent, in another level, the established order and repetition within the concrete structure of geometry. Instead of extending and proliferating the motifs in the surface to construct new forms, the whole form is repeated in depth. The twist | enacted onto the Girih, which challenges the rationalist, inflexible structure of geometry, makes a metaphor for challenging the idea of the unity of truth. The three-dimensional structures I have made are various angles of a certain original structure. However, none of them exactly matches it, as there is actually no unique original, but a few facets of an absent structure. The absence of the original, central structure is displayed through the present sculptures in the exhibition. Its absence means the impossibility of its presence;
which means the concealment of the presence, and the traces of its absence. This reconstructs an image of our encounter with the contemporary plural idea of the truth which is affected by various paradigms. When the absent form rotates in the space, it makes variations depending on the angles, some of which I have constructed in metal. According to the angle of the twist, the central void in the geometrical form varies between circle and ovals, or at times totally disappears. To me, it is a metaphor for an age in which the implement of the idea of a unique truth is no longer possible: an era of plural truths and multiple conceptions of multiple truths. I tried to consciously display this idea by means of geometry, which has historically acted as a mirror of the order in the nature and the uniqueness of the truth. In examining such significant, deep-rooted traditional artistic forms, I ultimately seek possibilities of taking alternative stances towards our cultural and visual constructions. This is a process I will continue and a quest I will keep on with.
An article on the “The Trace of Absence” exhibition, written by: Babak Ahmadi
The proximity of philosophy and geometry is an old account which goes back to Plato’s dialogues and Pythagoras’ thoughts. Philosophy and geometry are two branches of the tree of human knowledge, built on secure axioms, which, by origin, promise the possibility of acquiring the truth. Geometry is recorded through dots and lines (straight or curved) and philosophy is documented in written signs, i.e. various scripts used in different languages. Graphic signs make the recording tool for both philosophy and geometry, and same goes for the visual arts. However, visual arts –here, mostly painting and sculpture– are not based on solid axioms. As art, they constantly face the problematic of the “difference”: the variance between the depicted or constructed work and the real object outside.The impassable gap between the real object and the work of art persists even in the most rigorous representational regimes. This makes visual arts plastic and flexible: they demonstrate either the absence or the inaccessibility of the ultimate truth, as it can never be fully represented. The Platonic idea, or the renaissance canon of likeness between the real object and the pictorial sign -which actually rooted in the privilege of mathematics- are discredited in art; so is the ultimate truth which was optimistically believed to be obtainable. What is left is then the possibilities of expressing and understanding the work of art, which means an elimination of any certainty, and the authorization and dominance of any particular potential.
In the present exhibition, Banafsheh Hemmati has brought an architectural device, i.e. Girih Tiles, into the domain of visual arts. It is basically a technique dedicated to the two-dimensional surface which she extends into the third dimension. In doing so, and by eliminating the “unique true form” she makes her way to the essence of the artistic act. In her artistic practice, the ideal of the unity is fading and the multiplicity of the forms recounts the absence of the ultimate form. Here the ‘traces’, in the sense Jacques Derrida maintained, have replaced the ultimate form. Her choice of Girih Tiles is an instance taken from Persian art, with no claim of retrieving the traditions or reviving a heritage. She simply takes a “device for multiplication”, and displays its potential to make varieties in the third dimension; and, in doing so, and by enabling the viewers to make up these varieties, she has made way to the infinite readings of the possible. Banafshseh Hemmati is the artist of today, the time of faded archetypes, variety, multiplication, and the validity of seeing in diverse ways. Seeing numerous traces of an absent form, from the ‘original’ work which is invisible, and non-existent.  In Nietzsche’s words: “What can be seen in thousand different forms, is not one thing, but a thousand things.”
Visual Statement of “The Trace Of Absence” collection.