Born in Berlin in 1972 to a German mother and an Iranian father, Timo Nasseri started out as a photographer. The series Jet Skin (2004), which portrays the encoded and undulating surface of powerful warplanes, was the pinnacle of the artist’s photographic work and marked his transition to sculpture. Shortly afterwards, Nasseri’s mural sculpture Flag played on the ambivalence between surface and volume, between a monochromatic black flag and a sculpture freezing the motion of fabric blowing in the wind. The minute attention the artist has devoted to fashioning the flag lends the piece a degree of perfection comparable to the machines of war or Islamic architecture that are the current focus of Timo Nasseri’s work.
For his solo exhibition at the gallery, Timo Nasseri presents a series of works in different media, based on the Muqarnas, a type of cor-bel used as a decorative device in traditional Islamic and Persian architecture (from the 11th century onwards). Muqarnas encircle a space and shape its void. When contemplated from below they tend to create an abstract image of infinity. The original motif consists of a number of basic shapes that can be com-bined endlessly to create different patterns that never repeat themselves. Timo Nasseri seems to have found in the historical Islamic adornment the same pleasure in extricating a structured volume from a surface.His latest sculpture, inspired by this architec-tural pattern and entitled Epistrophy #1, is deliberately severed from its past. It is embedded in the wall, leaving the sky accessible. Its polished stainless steel surface reflects the surrounding world rather than representing it, or rather represents it as totally fragmented
What is this infinity fashioned by the geometrical structures? Does it have a place in a society where everything comes down to self-image? The irreverence of this simple and beautiful gesture forms a question without providing any other answer than this sculpted void where self-image is dispersed in the infinite reflection of the world. The exhibition also includes drawings based on the geometric calculations used to build Muqarnas.
The lines interwine on the page, against a black background, presenting at once visual fascination and the formula behind it via the mathematical annotations that punctuate the drawing. The drawings, which lie somewhere between an architect’s layout and a representation of heavenly beauty, are the by-product of a process leading towards an intuitive abstraction. Another version of the original shape appears on a display bearing objects that are similar to the Muqarnas’ interlocking honeycomb structure. But in this case they are closed chambers, and filled, like so many confined small skies. In his new show, Timo Nasseri plays on oppositions such as empty/full, mirror/opacity, surface/image, like two worlds, which – despite stemming from each other – have developed their own autonomous chemistry.
The artist’s handling of his dual national-ity avoids the common pitfalls: he does not come down on one side or the other, nor does he attempt to represent a clash of cultures. Rather he broaches aporias and explores a richness that is often cultural and at times – as in the case of Muqarnas – historical. The sculptures Apache and Comanche, presented as part of his solo exhibition at the gallery in 2006, show a cultural paradox in which the artist’s dual identity acts as a wake-up call.
The pieces are painstaking reproductions of the US army attack helicopters whose names, ironically, acclaim the camouflaging skills of the Native American tribes decimated decades earlier by that the very same army. The works, covered with bird feathers in a long and meticulous process reminiscent of a mortuary ritual, reveal a complex relationship with political conflicts. The slow-moving process, its disconcerting result and the zoomorphic nature of these machines raise the question of mourning. But who or what are we mourning here? Several forces are worn out: that of the machine against manual work, of Native American telluric knowledge, stripped of its connection with reality by machines, of war with its level of abstraction, and of beauty in the pathos of such a gesture.Timo Nasseri’s works often examine the antagonism between multiple identities and points of view, in particular through the medium of language. His series of mural sculptures
(2004-2008) based on Farsi script generate a dichotomy, dividing viewers into those who can decipher the characters and those who cannot. The calligraphy-based pieces Fadjr (Dawn), 2007, and Simorgh (Phoenix), 2008, stand out in relief from the wall. While purely abstract for some, for others they are a reference to Iranian armament (they spell out the names of missiles), an idyll or mythology.